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Knauer's Korner: UA football - what this year could have been

Tom Knauer
staff writer
By Tom Knauer
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
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This hasn't been a banner six months for the UA football team. Heralded defensive recruit McCollins Umeh died of an enlarged heart in June; offensive lineman Brandon Phillips served a three-game suspension for hiring an agent before being granted another year of eligibility; running back Mike Bell hurt his leg against Utah and hasn't been spectacular since; and quarterbacks Nic Costa and Ryan O'Hara both left the team, prompting coaches to supplant a struggling Kris Heavner with redshirt freshman Richard Kovalcheck.

And that's all without mentioning the tragedy that was the shooting of freshman Sheldon Watts or any of the Wildcats' countless off-field legal issues this year.

The fallout of all this has been ghastly. Entering its final home game Friday against No. 18 Arizona State, Arizona has won but two games, all but duplicating its showing from 2003.

Yet the opposition has also had problems. Arizona State suffered early-season injuries to its running backs, and while Hakim Hill and Rudy Burgess have formed a formidable backfield corps, the confusion over which back to emphasis has resulted in a few offensive hiccups.

So it's clear that each team has its flaws that will show at various points during the game. But what if that wasn't the case? What if the Territorial Cup winner was decided today, with both teams' present issues ironed out and slightly altered?

I wonder...

First Quarter, 15:00: Arizona wins the coin toss and elects to kick. Burgess scoops up the ball and returns it 22 yards to the Arizona 35. Arizona State 0, Arizona 0

First Quarter, 13:26: ASU quarterback Andrew Walter drives 60 yards in 90 seconds, punctuating with a 5-yard flip to tight end Zach Miller. Miller then attempts Deion Sanders' Prime Time jig but suffers a game-ending charley horse. Arizona State 7, Arizona 0.

Second Quarter, 8:27: Arizona State recovers a fumble on the Wildcats' 45 after a Heavner sack. Walter then hands off to Burgess, who loses the ball to Hill, who accidentally flings it to Walter. With eight men in his face, Walter backpedals and throws into the end zone. Defensive backs Antoine Cason, Wilrey Fontenot and Jim Thorpe Award candidate Darrell Brooks (45 combined interceptions) converge on the ball and catch it simultaneously. Keyed by a vicious block of Walter by Umeh, the trio alternates laterals en route to a 109-yard interception return. Arizona State 10, Arizona 7.

Second Quarter, 2:01: After a Walter touchdown to Derek Hagan, Heavner completes his 15th consecutive pass, bringing Arizona to the Sun Devils' 35. Heavner pump-fakes to Costa, who's covered by four men, but misses his read on wide-open tight end Steve Fleming. Heavner injures his shoulder on his seventh sack of the game and is quickly replaced by Costa. Arizona State 17, Arizona 7.

Second Quarter, :15: Costa converts a 30-yard pass to Fleming. With four seconds left in the half, Costa takes the snap, scrambles twice from sideline to sideline, and forces a throw downfield. Walk-on receiver Channing Frye makes a stunning one-handed grab over 5-foot-8 corner Littrele Jones, dunking him and the ball through the goal posts. Center Keoki Fraser keeps the snap and waltzes into the end zone for the two-point conversion. Arizona State 17, Arizona 15.

Halftime: Still angry about Miller's first-quarter show, Wilbur Wildcat shoves Sparky, the Sun Devil, who gets held back by an official. The Sun Devil goes and lies down on a team bench, swearing vengeance.

Third Quarter, 10:12: Tempers erupt on third down as Hill and Burgess dispute who Walter will give it to next. Walter, unknowing of the squabble, tosses the ball to redshirt freshman Preston Jones, who's standing on the sidelines. Umeh blocks the subsequent punt for a safety. Arizona State 17, Arizona 17.

Third Quarter, 9:45: Walter rebounds with an 85-yard touchdown pass to Derek Hagan after officials manage to trip up the Wildcats' entire defensive backfield. Arizona head coach Mike Stoops suffers a blown coronary but stays in the game. Arizona State 24, Arizona 17.

Fourth Quarter, 5:45: Costa hands off to running back Gilbert Harris on the Sun Devils' 17. Harris shakes off seven defenders in a 10-yard span and prepares to obliterate linebacker Jamal Williams when Williams jams his helmet into Harris' shoulder. The ball shoots 40 yards in the air before Williams snatches it and runs off. Williams plows into Costa for show, but gets grabbed by his ankle. Williams steps on Costa's wrist and stumbles, fumbling as he hits the ground. Bell recovers the ball and runs in for the touchdown, but Costa is forced to sit. Light chants of "O'Hara" are rewarded as the junior enters the game. Arizona State 24, Arizona 24.

Fourth Quarter, :45: O'Hara converts three-straight third downs to bring Arizona to the Sun Devils' 27. Arizona fans, taking full advantage of All-You-Can-Drink $1 Beer Night, receive a sideline warning, their second of the half, giving the Wildcats a 5-yard penalty. Stoops calls time as Folk warms up on the sideline. Arizona State 24, Arizona 24.

Fourth Quarter, :45: With Arizona fans becoming increasingly irate, Folk lines up for a career-high 49-yard attempt. As Folk's kick sails through the uprights, a fan tosses a cup of beer down to the field. The cup hits the sleeping Sun Devil mascot square in the face, and he rumbles into the stands. A brawl among fans and players ensues as both parties spill onto the field. Arizona celebrates its seeming victory from the sidelines, but an official taps his microphone and declares the game canceled due to the melee. Police officers are called to quell the chaos, while fans try to topple the north goal post.

The next day, Pacific 10 Conference Commissioner Thomas C. Hansen holds a news conference from his Walnut Creek, Calif. suite. He suspends Sparky 73 games for his actions, while Wilbur receives a light six-game ban, both effective next season. Folk, meanwhile, prepares a lawsuit, on the basis of extreme mental anguish.

Tom Knauer is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at

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