When Rich Rodriguez arrived for his brief postgame press exchange late Friday night, he was agitable, edgy and short. It was the first time most had seen him like that, in public, with the cameras running.
Unlike Mike Stoops, who often came off as resigned and stumped, RichRod's reaction to a calamitous loss to Arizona State was encouraging. He will not take losing well.
On Friday, RichRod bit off his words, carefully, avoiding saying something that would go viral and stamp him as a full-out jerk.
A younger coach might have succumbed to the moment, but RichRod has been through enough of these bitter, rivalry losses, against Pitt's Dave Wannstedt and Walt Harris, and against Ohio State's Jim Tressel, that he did not lose his composure.
He does not like Todd Graham, not at all, and that goes for most of those on Arizona's staff who have worked with ASU's coach in previous stops at Pitt, West Virginia and Tulsa. This will be a contentious rivalry, ASU vs. Arizona, as it should be.
The difference between Arizona and ASU on Friday probably came down to two players: Sun Devils defensive lineman Will Sutton, who for my two cents is the Pac-12's most imposing defensive player, and linebacker Brandon Magee, a fifth-year senior who made 17 tackles and was the best player on the field Friday.
Arizona has nothing close to Sutton and Magee. They are game-changers. It makes you wonder how the Sun Devils failed to win more than seven games.
Ironically, RichRod was in a similar position when he coached his first rivalry game, Michigan vs. Ohio State, in 2008. In his book "Three and Out," Rodriguez documented that 41 of the 70 Michigan players that made that trip to Ohio were freshmen and walk-ons. That is comparable to what Arizona's defense worked with all year, hence crippling opponent totals of 485 yards and 34 points per game.
RichRod's lasting description of Michigan's 42-7 loss at Ohio State in 2008 was that he felt like he was taking a butter knife into a gun fight.
It's not quite that bad at Arizona in 2012 - ASU is nowhere near as good as the Buckeyes were in '08 - but by this time next year, Rodriguez will have a much better chance to fight back.
UA baseball coach Lopez happy with fall workouts
UA baseball coach Andy Lopez completed a month of fall baseball workouts, and his fall recruiting campaign, as a happy man.
"Nobody got hurt, we identified a lot of potentially strong players and we recruited well," he said. "It's one of the better fall training camps we've had."
The defending College World Series champs are attempting to replace five elite players from the epic run to the national championship. Here are three players who emerged in October and November:
• Junior third baseman Brandon Dixon, a CWS star, who hit but .245 last season. "He has jumped up a level, especially in the eyes of the pro scouts," Lopez said. "He has been outstanding in the field, and, after he had laser eye surgery, he obviously is following the ball better. He hit. 387 in fall ball."
• Walk-on freshman outfielder/infielder Scott Kingery of Phoenix Mountain Pointe. He led the club with a .457 on-base percentage and a .426 batting average. "You would consider batting him leadoff," Lopez said. "He can steal a bag. The unknown is whether he will be a fall flash, or if he'll return in the spring and pick up where he left off. He made an impression."
• Freshman right-hander Kevin Elder, a former Illinois prep star, who missed his senior season after a transfer/eligibility mix-up. "He looks like a factor, an immediate guy for us," Lopez said. "We're going to use a young guy in the rotation behind (World Series stars) Konner Wade and James Farris. We've got two more good freshmen arms in Cody Moffett of Phoenix and Jesse Scholtens, a Northern California kid."
Lopez said that among the top recruits in the nation is incoming infielder/closer Bobby Dalbec of Legend High School near Denver.
"We got him because we won the national championship," Lopez said. "He was in my office, on an unofficial visit, soon after we got back from Omaha. His mom was with him, and I just happened to have the NCAA trophy on my desk.
"Bobby said, 'Can I hold the trophy, coach?' I said, 'Sure.' He said, 'If you let me hold it so my mom can take a picture, I'll commit to Arizona right now.'" Lopez stopped to laugh. "I said, 'Mom, get out the camera.'"
Football seasons for Reed brothers have been rocky
The football season hasn't gone the way Sabino High grads Lucas Reed and older brother Brooks Reed anticipated. Lucas, a 2010 all-Mountain West Conference tight end, has been victimized by a coaching change at New Mexico. After catching 33 balls in 2010, Lucas' role has been diminished by a running attack. Entering Saturday's finale against Colorado State, Lucas had five catches and no Lobos player had caught more than 11 passes all season. His NFL draft stock also has dropped. After injuring a groin in a Thanksgiving game against Detroit, Brooks is expected to miss at least three weeks for the Houston Texans, and possibly as many as six weeks. He has 23 tackles this year as a starting linebacker. … The annual PGA Southwest Section, Southern Chapter's big four awards last week went to prominent Tucson golfers. Ex-Palo Verde High and Kansas State golfer Ben Kern was named the Chapter Player of the Year; ex-Salpointe Catholic and UA golfer Dennis Palmer, director of golf at Tubac Golf Resort, was named Chapter Pro of the Year; ex-UA and LPGA golfer Susie Meyers was named Instructor of the Year; and ex-UA Pac-10 champion Paul Nolen of the Gallery Golf Club was named Senior Golfer of the Year. … Salpointe junior golfer Krystal Quihuis has surely moved into contention with Sahuaro's Cindy Rarick and Salpointe's Sara Brown, both ex-LPGA Tour players, as the leading girls golfer in Tucson history. Quihuis won her second straight Tucson City Amateur championship last week, by 12 strokes, shooting 69 at Silverbell and 71 at Dell Urich, or even par. Judy Miller was runner-up.
Williams, other ex-Cats endure hard luck in NBA
This has not been a good year for UA basketball players in the NBA, and it goes beyond Chase Budinger's knee surgery with Minnesota. Also with the Timberwolves, Derrick Williams got an audition as a starter when Kevin Love was injured, but averaged just 10.3 points and 5.6 rebounds and shot 35.6 percent from the field. When Love returned, Williams did not play - not a second - in games Wednesday and Friday. What a waste. A trade seems imminent. … Luke Walton, at 32, earning $6.1 million this year, did not play in any of Cleveland's last four games, through Friday. … At Golden State, with an injured calf, Richard Jefferson is averaging just 4.2 points and 15.2 minutes as a sub on a bad team. But at least Jefferson is being paid $10.2 million this season. … Palo Verde High grad Bryce Cotton has a chance to be an All-Big East guard this season. He scored 30 in Providence's win over UNC-Asheville and, through Friday, was averaging 23.8 points and 39.6 minutes per game. A junior, Cotton is stuck on a really bad team, however. … I got my first extended look at former Tucson High point guard Sama Taku on a Friday ESPN2 game as his Pacific Tigers upset Saint Mary's. He's good. Taku has started all five of UOP's games, through Friday, and scored 19 total in DirecTV Classic upsets over Xavier and Saint Mary's. Taku was a JC star last year in Santa Rosa, Calif., playing for ex-UA guard Craig McMillan's team. … UA's next home basketball game, Wednesday against NAU, is on the dreaded Pac-12 Networks and predictably late, 8 p.m. It will give DirecTV customers, who don't get the feed, a chance to listen to longtime UA assistant basketball coach Jim Rosborough, who will serve as Brian Jeffries' radio analyst for that game.
More Short Stuff
Overlooked Sambu wins first pro race in San Jose
Had the timing been different, UA senior Stephen Sambu would've been easily remembered as one of the great distance runners in Arizona and Pac-12 history. He was the No. 2 finisher in the NCAA cross country finals this year and in 2011. He was third in the NCAA 10,000 meters in 2011 and third in the NCAA 5,000 finals this year. But because his UA career merged with that of Lawi Lalang and fellow UA All-Americans Brigetta Barrett, Georgeanne Moline, Julie Labonte, and others, Sambu didn't get a ton of attention. Finally, as a pro, able to accept prize money, Sambu ran in the Silicon Valley 5K, Thanksgiving in San Jose, Calif., that attracted 24,000 entrants. He won it with a course-record time of 13 minutes 27 seconds. … Lalang's surprise loss at the NCAA cross country finals - he had been unbeaten for two seasons - almost makes sense. He told reporters in Kentucky, "I'm a 1,500-meter guy, a 5,000 guy. So when they go that fast (at 10,000 meters) it is a disadvantage for me." … Sahuaro grad Caitlin Leverenz, the 2012 NCAA Women's Swimmer of the Year at Cal and a London Games bronze medalist, returned to Tucson for the holiday and worked out with Tucson Ford Aquatics coach Johno Fergusson and UA post-grad swimmers. She also visited kids at Diamond Children's Medical Center. She will return to Cal this week to prepare for his senior season. … With the departure of Catalina Foothills football coach Scott Cortese, it is inevitable that ex-Canyon del Oro, Sabino and Santa Rita coach Jeff Scurran will be linked to the vacancy. But I think Pima College coach Pat Nugent, formerly of CDO and Flowing Wells, might be the lead target for that sleeping giant of a football program. … Tucson distance runner extraordinare Pam Reed is one of five nominated by ESPN as "The Greatest Endurance Athlete of All-Time" with marathon swimmer Diana Nyad. You can vote for Reed at espn.com.
My Two Cents
UA's Carey cracks elite list of Pac-12 rushing leaders
Ka'Deem Carey has rushed for 1,757 yards this season, which moves him to 10th place on the career Pac-12 single-season list. Getting that high is remarkable.
The players in front of Carey, all with more than 1,800 yards, are Marcus Allen, Charles White (twice), J. J. Arrington, Ricky Bell, O. J. Simpson, Jerome Harrison, Toby Gerhart and LaMichael James.
All of those men became consensus All-Americans. All, with the exception of Harrison, a fifth-round pick, were selected in the first or second round of the NFL draft.
Thus, if Carey can remain injury free in 2013 and 2014, the sky appears to be the limit for personal awards and national recognition.