“That’ll be a 20-point blowout.” — Colorado guard Xavier Johnson when asked about the Buffaloes’ rematch with Arizona in Boulder following last month’s 69-57 loss at McKale Center.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but … bulletin-board material will motivate me?
Colorado’s Xavier Johnson had some bold things to say after the Buffaloes lost to Arizona at McKale Center last month. The quotes were so brazen that Arizona does not need a bulletin board to remember what Johnson said as the Wildcats prepare for tomorrow’s rematch in Boulder, Colo.
“We were playing the No. 1 team in the nation, but they’re not that good,” Johnson said.
“We have better players than them, I think, even down a player (without injured star player Spencer Dinwiddie).”
“That’ll be a 20-point blowout,” Johnson said when asked about the Wildcats’ return visit to Boulder.
Fans should thank Johnson for adding drama and intrigue to a game tomorrow that already is significant nationally with ESPN’s College GameDay on hand.
Johnson’s comments sparked the idea for this blog: What are some of the most memorable bulletin-board material quotes in Arizona history?
>> Former ASU quarterback Paul Justin guaranteed a victory over Arizona after ASU lost 28-18 to the Wildcats in Tucson in 1988. The Arizona victory increased its streak to seven games without a loss to its rival. The walls at McKale Center were reportedly papered with enlarged copies of Justin’s quote leading up to the 1989 edition of the Territorial Cup.
“I’m standing by what I said,” Justin told the Mesa Tribune. “We’ll knock them down. They dodged a bullet last year. I want to be able to say we broke the streak. (The Streak) has to stop. I hate the U of A.”
The Wildcats extended “The Streak” to eight consecutive years without a loss to the Sun Devils with a 28-10 victory at Sun Devil Stadium. That was the game in which ASU wore yellow from top to bottom, prompting former Arizona linebacker Chris Singleton to say: “They looked real cute, like a bunch of bananas.”
Justin lost again to the Wildcats the following season in Tucson. ASU’s final drive came to an end with Bobby Roland intercepting a Justin pass, preserving the Wildcats’ 21-17 advantage. Justin, a senior that year, never beat Arizona.
>> Reggie Miller … oh, Reggie Miller … produced negative vibes toward Arizona during his time at UCLA. I ranked Miller among the most loathed opponents in McKale Center history last year.
“I could have scored anytime I wanted from the baseline,” Miller told the Los Angeles Times after posting 16 points, 10 below his average, in an 85-60 loss at McKale Center in 1986. After fouling out, Miller gave the refs a payola gesture to suggest they were paid off by Arizona coach Lute Olson.
In the following season, Arizona was eliminated in the first round of the inaugural Pac-10 tournament and was still selected to the NCAA tournament despite an 18-11 record. The Wildcats were assigned to play in McKale Center in the final year a team was allowed to play on its home court in the NCAA tournament.
“They only got in because their athletic director (Cedric Dempsey) is on the selection committee,” Miller told reporters.
>> According to former Tucson Citizen columnist Corky Simpson, a mysterious classified ad placed in the Los Angeles Times the week of Arizona’s first football game in the Pac-10 in 1978 inspired a victory over Oregon State.
The classified ad was clipped out of the Times and tacked on the bulletin board in the Arizona locker room. It read:
“We welcome the Arizona schools to the Pac-10. Now we no longer have to be on the bottom.”
It was signed, “Oregon State boosters.”
Sounds a bit fishy doesn’t it? Why would the Beavers’ supporters make comment of their inadequacies over the years?
After the Wildcats defeated the Beavers, one of the players hoisted a placard bearing the words of the Times advertisement. UA linebacker Corky Ingraham told reporters, “That clipping was the difference. It got us up more than anything.”
Simpson writes that nobody knew where the ad came from or who paid for it, “but everybody suspected the loquacious UA head coach.”
He asked Mason before the coach passed away in 1994 if he had paid for the ad. “Me?” Mason told Simpson with a wink.
>> In 1954, the “Cactus Comet”, Art Luppino, and his Wildcat teammates received a bold telegram from an anonymous source from Phoenix regarding the upcoming Territorial Cup game with Arizona State College (what it was called at the time).
The Associated Press reported that the telegram addressed to an Arizona line coach was pinned to a bulletin board in the Arizona locker room in broad view of the Wildcats.
“Have those seven punching bags inflated Saturday. Also, tell the other mild kittens and those tired old servicemen that some days it’s better to stay in bed. This Saturday is one of those days.”
It was signed: “You know who”.
An Arizona coach wrote underneath the telegram: “Let’s give them our reply Saturday night.”
The Wildcats had at least five players out with injuries. A few days before the game, Luppino, the NCAA rushing leader in 1954 and 1955, was taken to a hospital complaining of chest pains. It was determined that Luppino had a bruise on his chest.
Arizona routed ASU 54-14 behind Luppino’s 180 yards rushing, including a 54-yard burst. He scored a touchdown and kicked four point-after attempts.
>> Apparently, coaches back in the day found the bulletin board to be a useful motivational ploy. In 1946, a Denver press agency reporter wrote a preview of Utah’s football game with Arizona that stated: “Utah continues its warmup campaign against Arizona at Salt Lake City Saturday night.”
According to the Deseret News, Arizona coach Miles Casteel closed the last practice session before the game by taking the clip to a bulletin board. The Utes, who finished 8-3 that season, barely survived with a 14-7 win over an Arizona team that finished 4-4-2.
>> Former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington backed up his bulletin-board comments when Arizona opened its 1999 season with a 41-7 loss on the road against the Nittany Lions.
The Beaver County (Pa.) Times reported in the week leading up to the game that Arrington belittled Arizona’s “Desert Swarm” defense that was dominant earlier that decade. After a reporter asked Arrington to compare Penn State’s defense with the Desert Swarm, Arrington said: “I don’t want to start anything, but I think there’s a big difference. I don’t think the Pac-10 is as physical as the Big Ten. Who’s in the Pac-10 anyway?”
We will find out tomorrow night if Xavier Johnson will back up his words or if Arizona will respond to another difficult challenge on the road.
Johnson, who hails from the same Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei program that produced Miles Simon, Reggie Geary and 2014 recruit Stanley Johnson (no relation), scored 21 points against the Wildcats in last month’s game at McKale Center.
It was a season-high for him at the time. He eclipsed that with 27 points in a 91-65 win against visiting Washington on Feb. 9.
“I don’t like Arizona and they don’t like me,” he told the Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera. “I need to do that every game, but Arizona just sparks my engine.
“I grew up with pretty much all of them. Half of them went to my school, half of them went to my rival schools. We’re all friends and the competitiveness I have brings out the fire in me.”