The Friday Fizz

Basketball Editor
Posted Sep 29, 2007


From Ron Mexico to a goalkeeper named Hope and from South Florida to Arizona, the Fizz takes some broad strokes while covering the national sports landscape. Although college football will reign supreme on Saturday, the ultimate tailgating sport will get some challenges from MLB’s incredibly dramatic pennant races and the President’s Cup.

Is there a running back in the nation with better vision and patience than Boise State’s Ian Johnson?

Is there a more overrated team than Texas?

Is there a team more in need of a win this week than Notre Dame?

Is there a better story in college football this season than South Florida?

Is Arizona going to finally beat a Division I school?

You hate to see any athlete disrespect the authority of their coach but in the case of Hope Solo, three cheers for standing up for yourself. If you missed it, Team USA’s head soccer coach Greg Ryan opted to bench Solo in favor of backup goalkeeper Briana Scurry because Scurry had more international and World Cup experience. The only problem is Solo is just flat out better than Scurry at this stage in their careers. With Scurry in the net, the Brazilians buried the American 4-0. With their World Cup title chances dashed, it’s still a toss up who will be the goalie in the third place game. If this were college, Solo would be suspended for violation of team rules. If this were the pros, Solo would start because the owner of the team would step in and tell the coach to put the best player in goal or find a new job. This is neither though so I have absolutely no clue what Ryan is going to do but if I were him, I’d make like my single days and increase my odds by flying Solo.

The Americans ended the first day of matches up 5 ½ to ½ over the Europeans in the President’s Cup. That must be a typo, right? Regardless, as great as the President’s Cup is the Ryder Cup is that much better. Better drama, better stakes, better everything…Okay, scratch that…Friday at the President’s Cup was pretty stellar with Angel Cabrera and Woody Austin draining clutch putts on 18, Mickelson rolling in a 40-foot eagle putt to extend his match, and Austin taking in a little recreational snorkeling in one of the lakes as he fell back into it after attempting a miraculous chip from within the depths of the greenside water hazard. When the sun finally did set, the Americans still held the lead but that lead had been trimmed to a not so comfortable 7 points to 5.

The way the President’s Cup works, each evening prior to the upcoming day’s matches the captains (Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player) take turns alternating who goes first in making their player sections for each pairing. As it turned out on Wednesday night, European Captain Gary Player chose Rory Sabbatini and Trevor Immelman when it was his turn to go first. This then opened the door for Nicklaus to assure the U.S. team a certain 8&7 victory by selecting Woods and just about any other golfer on the planet except Spalding from Caddyshack to put his usual beat down on Sabbatini. Nicklaus inexplicably chose the pairing of Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson. Sabbatini’s twosome still lost the point to the Americans but the match was a lot closer than it needed to be.

How great has Alfonso Soriano been for the Cubs down the stretch? He has 13 home runs in the month of September and is in literally every SportsCenter highlight. Either he’s getting a hit, driving in a run, being driven in, throwing out a runner, making a diving play or just congratulating a teammate with a solid pat on the back. He’s just been unbelievable. Good for him.

Speaking of baseball, as much as I find loathing Red Sox fans to be the equivalent of tiny nails on a chalkboard I will admit that I’m rooting for their skipper Terry Francona to win it all. Francona played baseball for the University of Arizona and helped lead the school to the 1980 College World Series. On top of that, Francona spent some of his MLB seasons with my beloved Montreal Expos. That one-two combination is enough for me to overlook Woe is Me Red Sox Fan and root for their team during the playoffs. Bear Down, Terry!

With basketball season just around the corner, I’m still baffled by the Greg Oden injury that’ll keep him on the bench for his entire rookie season. Just baffled.

Perhaps critics of Mike Stoops’ sidelines antics should step back for a second and reevaluate the situation. While Stoops does seem overly animated, how different is he really from other head coaches who just flat out can’t believe what they just witnessed? I’m beginning to think he’s not as different as most make him out to be. I’d like to introduce into evidence, Exhibit A – West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez. I’m pretty sure we can all agree that Rodriguez is one of the best coaches in Division I football. Well, anyone who watched South Florida upset the Mountaineers on Friday night witnessed Rodriguez play the role of a raving lunatic for 60 minutes. In the second quarter, when WVU backup quarterback Jarrett Brown had the football fly 15 yards behind him on a shotgun snap that went through his hands, Rodriguez literally had a conniption fit. All I’m saying here is if a coach like Rodriguez is allowed to get fired up when his team loses then so should Stoops. After all, Arizona’s been losing a lot so he has had a lot to be fired up about.

Speaking of Stoops, he was admitted to the hospital today because of pains associated with kidney stones. I once had a writer on one of my copywriting teams who was suffering through the passing of kidney stones. The poor guy was literally affixed to a water bottle the whole time and would cringe in pain or make unusually disturbing hissing noises out of nowhere from time to time. The worst though was when he physically passed out at his desk and then fell out of his chair one day in the office. You know how much pain the human body can tolerate before forcing the brain to shut things down for a few seconds? I’m not exactly sure, but I know it’s a lot. Anyway, good luck coach. We’re all behind you in more ways than one now.

On Thursday, radio personality Jim Rome had a rant on his talk show about how it was unacceptable to ever cry at work. I totally agree with him by the way and because I do you shouldn’t be surprised to find out that one of my co-workers completely broke down later that same afternoon and of all the offices she had to stumble into, she chose mine. I didn’t know what to do so I told her to drop what she was doing and just go home.

There’s such a fine line between winning and losing, it’s actually pretty amazing. Sure talent plays a major role but as the level of competition rises the talent edge is somewhat negated. What it all really boils down to is which team believes they can win. Look at the Mets, and then look at the Yankees. One team believes they were born to win and the other has to try and always convince itself that it’s supposed to win. One team has now been in the playoffs for 13 straight seasons and the other, well, they’ve lost nine straight home games and there end-of-season collapse now has them out of first place in the NL East for the first time since April.

The Price of Being Superstitious: I’m going through UA apparel and memorabilia at an alarming rate these past few seasons. Forget football, I’m talking about both football and basketball. All my one-time lucky t-shirts that I used to wear on game days are now my workout clothes. My favorite pair of UA sweatpants is now a blanket for my two dogs. My UA license plate is one more loss away from ending up on my wife’s Prius. And now, now it’s time to part ways with my favorite Arizona hat. It’s one of those fitted blue caps with the traditional Arizona “A” that we all love so much. The one thing about this hat is it fits like a glove and more importantly is like the chameleon of hats in that it seriously goes with everything I wear. I’m totally heartbroken, but it’s something I have to do. I bought this hat last season when I was in Tucson for the USC football game and since I’ve been wearing this hat, Arizona basketball along with football has taken a few steps back. So, for the good of both programs, and for UA fans everywhere it’s time for my favorite hat to retire from all game day responsibilities.

It’s nice to see that the Pac-10 is the featured conference this week in college football. While there are many great games going on across the country, the biggest game in the country is taking place in Eugene, Oregon. The other big game is in Seattle where USC takes their traveling road show into Husky Stadium. As good as USC is, the simple truth is there is not a team in the Pac-10 who is intimidated by them. The other simple truth is USC has proven to be fallible on the road, even during their recent stretch of dominance. The Trojans lost twice last season on the road during conference play and nearly lost another game in Pullman to Wazzu. Saturday night will be the first of four conference road games and none of them are easy (UW, Oregon, Cal and ASU). I doubt Washington will win but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them remain competitive well into the third quarter.

How is it possible that Michael Vick can continue to make one bad life decision after another? I’ve asked this question several times and I’m asking it again because I’m still seeking the answer.

I’m happy my Steelers are off to a 3-0 start. Granted, they haven’t really played anyone yet, but the fact that they’re blowing away opponents is promising that this team actually is as good as their record.

On the other end of the spectrum, UA’s 1-3 start has me a bit miffed. Saturday is a huge game for the Wildcats on so many levels but the bottom line is that I don’t care how they win, I just hope they win. 12-9 on a last second field goal, I’ll take it. 55-54 on a two-point conversion in 3OT, give it to me. 2-0 on a safety in the bottom of the 9th inning, done. Just win.

What do I think the key match up for the Wazzu/Arizona game will be? I thought you’d never ask.

Under head coach Bill Doba, WSU is 4-1 against Arizona with the lone loss coming last season in Pullman (UA 27-17). They are also 0-5 in back-to-back conference road games since Doba took over and guess what, last week the Cougars were in L.A. to face USC and now they find themselves in Tucson to take on the Wildcats. Arizona sacked Cougars quarterback Alex Brink four times in the 2006 game and held WSU to only 45 net yards rushing. That’ll be the key again this year. How UA’s defensive line plays against WSU’s offensive line will be the difference. If Brink has time to throw, the Wildcats have proven this season that their secondary is similar to every other secondary in the country in that you can only effectively cover a receiver for about three or four seconds. After that, every additional second that the quarterback has in the pocket, the odds of the receiver getting open grow bigger. Arizona’s DL must get it done in not only pressuring Brink but shutting down the running game so as to make the Cougars one dimensional. If they can do that, then they can expand their blitz package while jumping the short routes which will force Brink to throw the deep ball with accuracy under duress.

When Arizona has the ball, it’s all about the Red Zone. One of our Wildcat Insider posters pointed out that Arizona owns the field from the 20 to the 20 on offense and they are absolutely correct. The problem is taking advantage of scoring opportunities by putting points on the board when given the chance. Arizona has scored only 12 times in 19 Red Zone opportunities (63%). Even worse is only 8 of those scores were on touchdowns. Arizona is pressing too much in the Red Zone as they always seem to be looking for the big play. What they need to do is get more creative in using three players when inside the 20: TE Rob Gronkowski, RB Nicholas Grigsby and FB Earl Mitchell. USC’s tight end Fred Davis had a career game against Wazzu last weekend as he was wide open throughout the entire game, but especially in the Red Zone. Similarly, my favorite play in football inside the 30 is the Wheel Route. This is a play that was originally designed for tailbacks with speed, but was especially designed for fullbacks like Mitchell who have incredible hands and enough quickness to slip out of the backfield and streak up the sideline.

If Arizona would just listen to me for a change, I know they’d win. On the 99% chance they don’t, though, I’ve already done my part in throwing away my unlucky hat.

Have fun at the game everyone and be nice to our Washington State guests.

Bear Down, Arizona!



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