On Monday, in honor of the World Cup, the Pac-12 blog looked at the best wins for each Pac-12 team during the last four years. Earlier today we looked at the worst losses in the last four years in the Pac-12 North. This afternoon we conclude the series with the worst losses in the Pac-12 South.
Feel free to submit your thoughts on the best win and worst loss for your team over the last four years and we’ll try to run a few later in the week.
Let’s see … is it the 2010 2-OT loss to Arizona State on the blocked PAT(s)? The 2012 loss to Arizona State when the defense gave up 24 points in the fourth quarter? Or the 66-10 loss to UCLA? Oh yeah, could also be the 58-21 loss in 2013 to ASU. The Wildcats went just 1-3 against its arch-nemesis between World Cups. We’re not going to single out just one. All three hurt. Rich Rodriguez has done great things with his program to date. The next step is to bring a little balance back to the Territorial Cup before the 2018 World Cup.
The last football game I covered of the 2013 season was the Holiday Bowl, and the Sun Devils fell to Texas Tech 37-23. The Sun Devils were sloppy, inefficient on both sides of the ball and the special teams were horrendous. It was the worst football game I’ve seen ASU play under Graham. That said, it was still better than the 2011 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas and the 56-24 pasting ASU suffered at the hands of Kellen Moore and Boise State. The Sun Devils were routed something awful and did little in "playing for their coach," Dennis Erickson, who was already fired but was allowed to coach the bowl game.
Remember, we’re just looking at the years in the Pac-12. A lot of players set a lot of records in 2012. And most of them came while playing Colorado. Matt Barkley and Robert Woods set a couple of records. A week later the Ducks dropped 56 points on Colorado (in the first half!). How great, by the way, was De’Anthony Thomas’ punt return? A couple of weeks after that, Ka’Deem Carey rushed for 366 yards and five touchdowns to establish a conference record. You get the idea. Trying to pick the worst of the worst is well, depressing.
I think of the exempted Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2011 and I cringe. I remember Rick Neuheisel standing at the tunnel at Stanford Stadium in 2011 after a 45-19 tail-kicking, clapping and telling his guys to keep their heads up. I remember how it all fell apart against Baylor in the 2012 Holiday Bowl. But the 50-0 blanking by USC in 2011 was brutal. Not only where the Bruins whipped by a rival, they had to “represent” the South the following week in the Pac-12 title game because the Trojans were still on sanctions. It was essentially the end of Neuheisel’s tenure at UCLA and a seven-on-seven showcase for Matt Barkley, who threw for six touchdowns and 423 yards on 35-of-42 passing.
No way to slice it … losses to rivals are brutal. And in the last two years, the Trojans haven’t fared particularly well against UCLA or Notre Dame. Most USC diehards will probably say back-to-back losses to the Bruins are as bad as it gets. You won’t hear an argument out of me. The triple-overtime thriller against Stanford in 2011 was probably the most exciting game I’ve covered outside of the USC-Texas national championship. And that had to have been a painful loss for the Trojans. However, I’m not a USC die-hard. And the 2012 Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech was the final scoop on the manure sundae that was USC’s season. It was one of the most uninspired 60 minutes of football I’ve ever seen. I remember watching that game from the media lounge at the Rose Bowl with several colleagues. I had no pony in the race, and I was still embarrassed. Several players have since told me they were, too. And with good reason.
Looking at the last three years in the Pac-12, I think about the 2011 loss to Colorado, the 30-point loss to ASU in 2012 and even the Utah State loss in Week 2 of 2012. All of those were brutal. But sometimes it’s the ones that slip away that are the toughest to stomach. I think back to 2013 and the OT loss to Oregon State and the touchdown loss to UCLA. One or two things swing differently, Utah is bowling and the Kyle Whittingham hot-seat talk becomes malarkey (it still is, by the way). To me, the one that really stung was the 20-19 loss last season to ASU. The Utes had a 19-7 lead going into the fourth quarter and couldn’t hang on. It seemed like the perfect metaphor for Utah’s time in the conference to date -- so close to breaking through but still not quite there.