By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 29, 2004
Prior to his postgame press conference following Arizona's 34-27 win over in-state rival Arizona State, head coach Mike Stoops' first order of business when exiting the UA locker room was to find a reporter from the Phoenix-based The Arizona Republic newspaper.
"What was that quote by coach Koetter, that the teams would show their true colors as the game wore on?" the first-year coach asked, referencing a quote by ASU head coach Dirk Koetter in Friday's Republic. "I believe that. I read that today in the paper. Well, I think we showed our true colors today."
"The more the game goes on, the more every team - good or bad - returns to their true colors," Koetter told the Republic.
Stoops said he and his coaching staff used this and a number of other quotes through the media to motivate their players, who used the words as motivation in pulling off the upset over No. 18 ASU.
The most mentioned message, however, was another statement from the Sun Devils' head coach.
"Everyone always tells the team on top that the rivalry game has to be close," said Koetter to the Republic. "There is no rule in the book that says just because it's your rival, you have to play it close. If you're four touchdowns better, you can play four touchdowns better."
Some of Arizona's players and coached took offense to that statement, believing Koetter was saying his team should be a four-touchdown favorite heading into Friday's matchup.
"That's a good football team," said Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops of the Sun Devils. "We will have class in this rivalry. I think they showed a lack of respect, talking about beating us by four touchdowns and all that."
"They said some things in the paper we didn't like and that just fuels our fire," added UA freshman cornerback Antoine Cason, who led the Wildcats in tackles with 12. "They were talking about how they won last year and how they were going to blow us out this year, but they had another thing coming."
For the most part, the Arizona side stayed closed-lipped and shied away from saying much prior to Friday's contest, but were not shy after earning their third win of the year.
"There's no other feeling than to go out on senior day and beat our rival who were heavy favorites," said senior receiver Ricky Williams. "We had to hear all week how they were going to come down here and beat us and beat us by a great amount of points."
Not only did the win validate the season for a Wildcat football program that hasn't been to a bowl game in five years, but it could also do wonders for recruiting.
"It was a great football game," said Mike Stoops. "The way it ended it will give us a lot of momentum going into the offseason. This is going to nothing but help our recruiting going into every area in the state of Arizona. It gives us credibility beyond what words and people say.
"When you do it, you aren't bragging anymore," Stoops said about the power of winning.
The Arizona football program hosted several out-of-state recruits over the weekend, and got to show the possible Wildcats what the battle for the Territorial Cup and Arizona football were like.
"We had eight, nine guys here this week for the weekend," said offensive coordinator Mike Canales. "You could see the smiles on their faces. This is what we're all about, and this is what we're trying to get to."
It would probably be safe to say that after the game, the recruits weren't the only ones smiling.