Dear Mr. Football: Is Arizona going to wear black jerseys tonight? Black helmets? Will they soon hold a blackout at Arizona Stadium?
A: Rich Rodriguez wore a black golf shirt with the official UA logo and Nike swoosh to his Monday press session. It is believed to be the first time an Arizona coach was outfitted in official black gear at a public setting.
Why is this news?
Arizona is the only Pac-12 school not to wear black, or use it as a complementary color, in a football game. Even tradition-bound Stanford has worn all-black football uniforms. ASU has worn so much black that you can’t see a trace of maroon or gold.
“Nike actually retailed that (black) shirt last year for a lot of schools,” said UA athletic director Greg Byrne. “I have one in my closet. We have no plans to wear black.”
Dear Mr. Football: Has everything else been copied in Pac-12 football?
A: Arizona had been unique in painting “BEAR DOWN” on the playing surface at Arizona Stadium, using the turf to showcase its tradition. But last week, USC debuted “FIGHT ON” across the 20-yard lines at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
It should spark a leaguewide copycat, keep-up-with-the-Ducks scramble, similar to the changes in game-day attire the last few seasons. Sure to follow: PT-42 at Sun Devil Stadium, another visual reminder of Pat Tillman’s legacy. And perhaps “GO MUSS” at Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium (Mighty Utah Student Section).
In 2013, anything goes in college football.
Dear Mr. Football: Who is the best college football coach to play prep football in Tucson?
A: It’s a five-man ballot: Army head coach Rich Ellerson of Salpointe was the creator of Arizona’s Desert Swarm strategies. Cal-Davis head coach Ron Gould of Santa Rita was part of bowl champs at Boise State and Cal. San Diego State defensive coach Osia Lewis has been a coordinator at New Mexico and UTEP.
Sabino has two entries: Former Sabercats center Chris Foerster , working with his seventh NFL team, the Redskins, played at Colorado State and coached at Stanford and Minnesota, among others.
Texas-San Antonio secondary coach Jeff Popovich quarterbacked Sabino to the 1994 state quarterfinals and 1995 state semifinals. He was a bit overshadowed as a senior because he broke his leg pole-vaulting and missed eight games, but returned, played both ways, and led the Sabercats to a notable state quarterfinals victory over 10-1 Sahuaro, scoring on 78-yard run.
Forgot Popovich? It’s understandable. Tucson prep football that season produced future FBS players David Andrews to Colorado, Isaac Banks to San Diego State, Ralph Zarate to ASU, Tamoni Joiner to Oregon, Brady Doe to Purdue, James McPherson to Wake Forest and Joe Brown to Ohio State.
But Popovich persevered. He walked on and earned a scholarship for the mighty Miami Hurricanes. Although he pursued football as a career, he earned a degree in biomechanical engineering.
Dear Mr. Football: Can Arizona be successful completing 50 percent (17 of 34) of its passes?
A: The last two times the Wildcats had a completion percentage under 50 percent, it fired its coach. Dick Tomey’s 2000 team was at .465 and John Mackovic’s 2003 squad was at .468.
Incredibly, from 2008 to 2012, the Wildcats completed more than 60 percent of their passes every year, a cumulative .643.
At Cerritos Junior College, B.J. Denker completed .569 percent of his throws, which, at that level, suggests he’s not likely going to start throwing strikes with great consistency, especially in the Pac-12 season.
Dear Mr. Football: Could UA linebackers Tra’Mayne Bondurant and Jake Fischer have earned playing time in the old Desert Swarm defenses?
A: Bondurant and Fischer both returned interceptions for touchdowns against UNLV; the only time Desert Swarm topped that was in a 1993 game at Illinois. Linebacker Sean Harris and tackle Jim Hoffman both returned fumbles for touchdowns, and pass-rusher Jimmy Hopkins sacked a quarterback in the end zone, recovering for a safety.
That was all Arizona scored in a 16-14 victory in Champaign, Ill. Talk about a different era, that needy UA offense gained nine first downs. When Bondurant and Fischer scored on defense last week, Arizona gained 25 first downs.
Dear Mr. Football: How do you get to become the coach of a national championship team (Miami, 2001)?
A: UTSA coach Larry Coker was a 31-year-old high school coach in Claremore, Okla., when he got the break of a lifetime. He was hired by Tulsa coach John Cooper to coach quarterbacks.
Cooper was a rising star, moving from Tulsa to Arizona State, taking the Sun Devils to the 1987 Rose Bowl. From that level, Cooper was hired by Ohio State. He soon added Coker to the Buckeyes staff. It all rubs off in college football.
Before that reunion, Coker used his Cooper/Tulsa leverage to get a spot under Jimmy Johnson , a home run hitter then at Oklahoma State. On that staff was Butch Davis , another rising star. Coker used that connection to go to Miami; when Davis left the Hurricanes in 2000, Coker took charge.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time; Coker’s 2003 Miami team overflowed with future NFL players such as Antrel Rolle , Frank Gore, the late Sean Taylor, Devin Hester, Kellen Winslow Jr. and Brock Berlin .
All of that past glory won’t help the Roadrunners tonight.
Dear Mr. Football: What’s the odd theme for tonight’s game?
A: It’s that Arizona fans and probably UA coaches are hopeful UTSA is better than expected. When’s the last time any team wished its opponent could play well?
The Wildcats are the Mystery Team of Pac-12 football. Their mash-em-up victories over NAU and UNLV were the equivalent of a big-league baseball team facing an opponent’s No. 5 starter in the pitching rotation.
Who knows how the Wildcats will respond when they begin to play bigger, faster, stronger opponents on Sept. 28?
The Roadrunners look more like a No. 4 starter, more challenging than the slowballs NAU and UNLV tossed down the middle of the plate. True, UTSA trailed Oklahoma State 35-7 at halftime, and as recently as two years ago had a losing season even though it played Minot State, Bacone College and McMurry State.
Yes, Bacone College.
The biggest win in UTSA’s brief history was against New Mexico two weeks ago, a team on a 7-46 streak.
That sounds good to me. Arizona 46, UTSA 7. Hold the bacone.