The Arizona State-Arizona series has had the Ultimatum Bowl, the Catch and the Streak. What, then, shall Saturday’s game be called?
The Three and Out Bowl? The Field Goal Fiesta? The Atrocious Play Calling Marathon?
When the most notable part of the game is Arizona’s Mike Stoops acting like a raving lunatic on the sideline — somebody give the guy a sedative, or at the very least, decaffeinated coffee — you know it hasn’t been one of the rivalry’s finest moments.
Goodness, gracious, I’ve seen playground tiffs between 5-year-olds that had more panache.
But if you’re a Sun Devil player, coach or fan this morning, you don’t care how ugly it was.
You beat Arizona, 20-17, you’re 10-2 and the season has been a rousing success.
“It’s been a great season,” wide receiver Chris McGaha said. “It’s really hard to win 10 games in this league (the Pac-10).”
I’d like to tell you where ASU is going to go bowling for the holidays but, frankly, I have no earthly idea.
West Virginia’s loss to Pittsburgh blew the BCS to smithereens. The only thing I’m sure of is that the Devils will be in a bowl game and the Wildcats won’t.
Which is sort of standard operating procedure in the rivalry.
“I love keeping UA out of a bowl game,” said ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who was so elated he launched two footballs into the stands as jubilant Sun Devil fans stormed the field. “I love doing it every single year.”
Defensive tackle Michael Marquardt took the hatred between the schools one step further. While praising Arizona’s players he said of the Wildcats’ coach: “It’s a personal vendetta we have with Mike Stoops. It’s too bad they have a lot of good players coached like that.”
That might bother Stoops if he stopped yelling long enough to listen to anybody.
The Devils could talk smack because they won. But the performance couldn’t have impressed Fiesta Bowl officials who watched the game.
And if you think that’s a grumpy, old sportswriter holding his nose, listen to what Carpenter had to say:
“It always seems like this game is so sloppy and weird,” he said. ... “You feel like every play is for the national championship so everyone gets so worked up and energized instead of playing and relaxing. You tend to make more mistakes that way.”
Fortunately for ASU, Arizona made more of them. The Wildcats’ three turnovers helped negate ASU having to settle for field goals when it twice had first-and-goal inside the 5-yard line.
Go ahead and credit the Sun Devils’ defense for holding the Wildcats to 17 points, 12 below their season average, but Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes had something to do with that, too.
Dykes must get a bonus every time UA throws a low-percentage fade pass along the sideline, because that’s the only thing that explains his absurd play-calling.
Case in point: The Wildcats, trailing 13-7, had a second-and-4 at ASU’s 14-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. The smart move was to continue to throw the short, high-percentage passes that had allowed Arizona to move from its 8-yard line.
Dykes, however, called for another fade pattern. It fell incomplete, and so did the third-down pass, forcing the Wildcats to settle for a field goal.
And could somebody please explain why Stoops didn’t kick a field goal on 4th-and-goal from the ASU 2 with 2:16 left? The Wildcats needed two scores to tie the game. It didn’t matter what order they came in.
But Stoops inexplicably went for it, and when Willie Tuitama’s pass was batted away, Arizona had no chance to win.
As it turned out, the Sun Devils’ biggest advantage was Stoops. He’s no Dennis Erickson.
Nor is this rivalry what it once was. ASU has won three straight and five of the last six games.
In Tucson or Tempe, with great aplomb or survival skills, it doesn’t matter.
ASU owns Arizona.
Listen to Scott Bordow every Monday at 3:25 p.m. on The Fan AM 1060 with Bob Kemp.