Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez went into the postgame media area like he usually does after a loss – disgruntled, short with answers and not a guy you’d want to go out with for a drink later.
I get it, it’s what coaches do when they make millions and are judged by wins and losses. Rodriguez takes it to art form.
About 40 minutes after Arizona’s 42-30 loss to Arizona State in the Territorial Cup, he said something that was obvious: “We will be mad for a couple of days. When you lose the Territorial Cup game you get angry.”
And, well, he was … the man who hates to lose was at his cranky and petulant best. Hell, just a couple of months ago, he jokingly said his wife, Rita, had to get after him for going into the postgame press conference upset and cranky.
It’s who he is after a loss.
It’s usually four minutes of making people feel uncomfortable in what turns out to be an uncomfortable four minutes. It always is after a loss.
Saturday was no different.
What happened to Khalil Tate?
“He got hurt,” Rodriguez said.
When the Arizona Daily Star’s Michael Lev asked a follow up question about that, Rodriguez spoke slowly and said, “He got hurt. He got banged up. He tried to go (again) but couldn’t.”
But you know what the question was about. Why would the coach play the quarterback again in the second half if he was hurt? And why wouldn’t he if he wasn’t?
Welcome to HurtGate, where UA fans will – and have already – barked about Rodriguez’s play calling in the second half after UA had a 24-14 lead.
What happened on the final seconds of the half when UA was on ASU’s 45-yard line with time left to score? UA called a timeout and it was thought UA may go for a 62-63 yard field goal. It didn’t. Instead it went for a Hail Mary pass that failed. On the pass, it appeared Tate was hit and suffered his injury. Apparently that wasn’t the case. Rodriguez said he had been hurt in the first quarter, yet was able to go 10 for 10 passing until his Hail Mary incompletion.
So, in stepped Brandon Dawkins, who proceeded to throw an interception on his second drive. That was after UA had started to unravel with yet another punting opportunity that went awry. ASU blocked Jake Glatting’s punt and later scored.
“A Division I team and we can’t punt?” Rodriguez asked rhetorically. “We can’t catch the ball and punt the ball. It’s unfathomable.”
Everything seemed that way in the second half.
It proceeded with Dawkins pass that was intercepted and later turned into a touchdown that helped ASU take the lead for good. Dawkins did keep Arizona in the game with a 50-yard run later but the damage had all but been done.
“He did alright, he made some plays,” Rodriguez said. “There are some things you shake your head at but we do that a lot. I shake my head at myself. I made some bad play calls.”
Um, back to the plays at the end of the half. He asked if everyone was seeing the same game he was. And, well, they did.
He said he was trying to get some field position and take a shot in the end zone. Arizona got that chance, but … came up empty and then returned without Tate on the field.
He said it was OK for the media to question that – he then became more animated – and said, “you all do whatever you want” and to go ahead and second guess him.
But he said Tate was hurt earlier … and yet he still played. Or at least was healthy enough to try
And, then, Arizona imploded with another poor punt, bad field position, bad offensive possessions – and eventually a loss in the rivalry game.
What it did was end one of the worst four-day stretches in Arizona athletics history when it comes to the major programs. Three consecutive losses by the No. 2 men’s basketball program and then this, a wilting loss to the hands of hated Arizona State.