Greg Hansen: Unforgettable, yes, but Cats move on

2012-12-17T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Unforgettable, yes, but Cats move onGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 17, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Arizona lived through the Five Stages of Never while trailing Nevada 48-35 in the final 1:48 of Saturday's New Mexico Bowl:

Never live it down.

Never quit.

Never say never.

Never fear.

Never too late.

Ultimately, the Wildcats never had it so good.

A college football Comeback For The Ages is customarily accompanied by an immortal broadcast and a voice that shrieks "The band is on the field" or maybe "Flutie's going deep."

But after Arizona's improbable rally to beat Nevada 49-48, about all that was left was for Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault to walk into the New Mexico Lobos' weight room and say:

"You don't have time to be shellshocked. That's football."

I asked Rich Rodriguez if he felt any empathy for Ault and the Wolf Pack. He responded with a 94-word filibuster to which the literal translation was "no."

Ault has coached 343 games at Nevada and he did not wish to participate in a brief history lesson about how many times his team has done unto an opponent as Arizona did unto Nevada.

"Right now I'm not recalling too many of them," he said. "This is a sick enough feeling. I don't want to recall any of the others. We've been on both sides of it."

Some might say Ault authored the most prodigious comeback in college football history, 21 years ago, when Nevada trailed Weber State 42-7 at halftime and then rallied to win 55-49.

Because it was Nevada and Weber State, and because it wasn't on ESPN or the Big Sky Network, or any network, that game has surely been forgotten by everybody except old Weber State coach Dave Arslanian, my long-ago boyhood friend, who eventually got fired for losing to Nevada five times, among other coaching sins.

That's the other side of it.

So, no empathy. This is a big boys game.

That's what hit me after reading the transcript of Sean Miller's interview following Saturday's equally improbable 65-64 basketball victory over Florida.

"There's a side of me that almost feels guilty, because they were the better team for most of the game," Miller said. "But it doesn't always work out that way."

College sports move too fast to celebrate much, or to mourn long. It is a culture in which crisis thrives.

Miller must prepare his team for two potentially brutal road games, Christmas Day in Hawaii against, likely, San Diego State, and a Jan. 10 showdown at growing power Oregon, both of which could compromise Saturday's feel-good comeback against Florida.

Miller has little time to absorb the glow of a victory of the Gators when his ballyhooed freshmen - Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett - continue to struggle in their introduction to a higher level of competition.

Rather than declare that henceforth Dec. 15 will be celebrated as the Festival of Fortitude, an annual athletic department holiday, the UA will simply move on and enjoy the good feelings while they last.

Outside of winning the 1994 Fiesta Bowl, the 1998 Holiday Bowl and knocking Arizona State out of a few Rose Bowls, long-suffering UA football fans have rarely known the joy that accompanied Saturday's comeback against Nevada.

Tangibly, that comeback will probably serve to sell thousands of tickets that might otherwise have gone unsold leading up to a 2013 home schedule that isn't stocked with tantalizing opponents (NAU, Texas-San Antonio, for example, and no USC or ASU).

The reality is that RichRod must rebuild the worst defense in UA history between now and September, which is possibly a more daunting job than identifying and preparing a quarterback who can win in the Pac-12.

In the interim, beating Nevada will keep the energy for UA football at its highest offseason levels since Willie Tuitama led the 2008 Wildcats to a Las Vegas Bowl victory over BYU.

That's what rallying to beat Nevada means more than anything else: a temporary sense of contentment. The shelf life of even the most compelling victories in college sports can be alarmingly brief.

Perhaps the most celebrated college football comeback of the last decade was Boise State's stirring 2007 Fiesta Bowl rally in which it used a hook-and-lateral play for a touchdown, and, ultimately, to win the game, a Statue of Liberty conversion to stun mighty Oklahoma 43-42.

That Game For The Ages didn't help Boise State much a year later when it was beaten by Hawaii, Washington and East Carolina.

College sports are so historically fickle that Arizona's sizzling Saturday in Albuquerque and some late night magic at McKale Center have already entered the Final Stage of Never.

Never forget.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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