The UA was so full of fight Saturday night, so feisty, that as the Wildcats celebrated a touchdown and a 23-14 lead over Oklahoma State, offensive line coach Robert Anae began shadow boxing on the 35-yard line.
It was timely and symbolic, a figurative message that after embarrassing losses to the Cowboys in 2010 and 2011, and after falling behind 14-0 Saturday, the Wildcats were no longer going to lie down.
Anae, a towering 6-foot-5-inch former BYU tackle, was doing the Ali shuffle. He gave a quick left to the shoulder pads of guard Chris Putton, and then delivered a jab to the shoulder of center Kyle Quinn, both of whom had cleared a path for Ka'Deem Carey's short touchdown run.
At one point, scoring 30 consecutive points, Anae and the Wildcats did everything but deliver a knockout punch. That would come in a flurry of second-half touchdowns.
Only 45,602 bothered to show up at Arizona Stadium, but this time, unlike the listless opener against Toledo, the chorus of voices from Zona Zoo, and those all the way up into the thinly populated upper deck, echoed through the old stadium.
It's unlikely Arizona could play any better. Not in 1994, not in 1998, not ever.
The irony was that as the Wildcats left the field at halftime, a previously scheduled video implored the fans to hang in there. The message: 50,000 Strong All Game Long.
Nobody was going to leave this game even if it took all night.
The knockout punch came early in the fourth quarter when UA cornerback Jonathan McKnight intercepted a pass and ran 48 yards for a touchdown, and by that time, the Cowboys had lost their legs and their fight.
Arizona won going away 59-38, and who would've believed it? This type of return to relevance wasn't expected until 2014, at the earliest.
UA quarterback Matt Scott was smokin', positively unstoppable. When the Cowboys spent their last ounce of energy, cutting the lead to 30-28, Scott flawlessly took the Wildcats 75 yards in five plays - a blur of a march requiring 1 minute 38 seconds - and by then it was clear this was no Savannah State game and, Dorothy, this isn't 2010 at the Alamo Bowl any longer.
Two things have become manifest in Rich Rodriguez's debut as Arizona's football coach: One, the offense that made him a millionaire coach at West Virginia still is a state-of-the-science scheme in college football, and, two, even though Arizona owes Mike Stoops a $1.4million buyout, it owes him some gratitude for not blowing Matt Scott's redshirt year in 2011.
You are almost tempted to ask why this has to be a rebuilding year after all. Oklahoma State had eight defensive starters back from a 12-1 team, and the Wildcats scored at will.
Everything changed in 60 minutes Saturday night at Arizona Stadium: the Utah Utes entered the season as the trendy pick to finish No. 2 behind USC in the Pac-12 South, but now you'd have to give Arizona and UCLA a better chance to get that spot.
Beating a ranked team isn't novel for the Wildcats in recent years. Stoops' teams beat No. 18 ASU in 2004, No. 7 UCLA a year later, No. 8 Cal in 2006, and followed that with a seismic upset over No. 2 Oregon in 2008. By 2010, when the Wildcats stunned No. 9 Iowa, it was almost routine.
But because Stoops' regime went bust, and because Rodriguez inherited a defense that starts three former walk-ons, expectations were modest, if that.
Oklahoma State outscored Arizona 73-24 over the previous two seasons, gaining 964 yards in two embarrassing games, and perhaps as much or more than any other facet, those two games led to the firing of Stoops and the hiring of Rodriguez.
It's amazing how quickly life can change in college football.
The Oklahoma State team that showed up Saturday night, having won 24 of its last 27 games, was undisciplined, committing nine penalties in the first 21 minutes of the game, and its seasoned group of defensive players had difficulty getting a hand on Scott, or Carey, or any UA receivers.
Against UA veteran Nick Foles, the Cowboys intercepted three passes in the 2010 Alamo Bowl alone. On Saturday, they couldn't drum up anything to slow down Scott.
In two games, Scott has orchestrated an Arizona offense that has gained 1,126 yards. So no wonder, after Saturday's game, Scott and the Wildcats ran to the band, in the southeast corner of the stadium, to celebrate.
Scott climbed atop the conductor's ladder and led the ceremonial singing of "Bear Down Arizona."
Much like his team, he didn't miss a beat.
Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or email@example.com