Charles Barkley once said that "Karma is a girl who dances down at the club every night." Meaning, "The Chuckster" wasn't one of these guys who believed in superstitions, luck, fate or any of those oft-talked-about sports theories.
Barkley may not be a believer in karma, but after last night's wild finish in the old pueblo, the ASU Sun Devils certainly are. With their second PAT block of the game, the Devils secured not only a win over their state rival for the Territorial Cup, but they also avenged some losses earlier in the season that had ripped their hearts out. Sure, they'll continue to look back at that Wisconsin loss and bemoan how they went toe-to-toe with a team who could still wind up playing for the National Championship if Oregon or Auburn stumbles this weekend, and another heart-breaker to USC still stings.
But today, they are just enjoying the fact that they won't be labeled losers by their record (6-6), and being able to capture bragging rights for the next year always makes the food go down a whole lot better. Isn't it interesting how Arizona still finishes with a better record overall yet today, and for the next several months, the folks in Tucson will be talking about a lost season while in Tempe it's a complete mood shift from where they were three short weeks ago? Sports is a funny thing like that. The 'Cats will be asking themselves how they lost four straight to close out what was once a top 15 team while the Devils are eagerly looking ahead at the promise of an even brighter 2011.
The win was especially sweet for two people in the end. I couldn't be happier for Thomas Webber. Here's a guy who, just a couple of years ago, was the top kicker in the country, a model of consistency. An injury robbed him of his strength and accuracy and ultimately his confidence, yet despite a miserable season by his standards, he steps up and has one of the biggest games of his ASU career!
Showing his growth on the field and, even more importantly, off of it, Webber said afterward that he felt for 'Cats kicker Alex Zendejas, who, this time last year, was the hero for his team and university, having kicked the game winner in Tempe. Last night was a very different ending for Zendejas, who saw his last two PATs blocked to secure a Devils victory. Zendejas will surely be the butt of many Wildcat jokes and will feel the scorn of the 'Cats fans for months, if not years, to come. Weber knows what it's like to feel like you're on an island, so he threw a lifeline, of sorts, to Zendejas with some words of encouragement.
When the Wildcats quickly marched down the field near the end of regulation and scored the TD to tie the game, you could see the pain and misery in the face of ASU coach Dennis Erickson. The man who had drunk the champagne as a National Champion not once but twice before was about to be served a big cup of sour milk, again! He looked on as Zendejas took the field to kick what would surely be another dagger into his heart for the go-ahead PAT. Call it fate, call it karma, call it whatever you want -- there would be no sour milk for the coach this time.
Like a patient who'd flat-lined moments earlier only to be hit with the paddles and suddenly surge to life, that was how the final moments of regulation played out for Erickson and the Sun Devils.
Having been resuscitated, the Devils came to life on both sides of the ball in the two overtime periods, but it still took another kiss of fate or a dance by karma to secure an improbable victory for ASU. For Erickson, the win assures the coach of ending the season on a win streak and some much-needed positive momentum heading into the offseason. The last two wins might also earn the coach at least some conversations about an extension since he has only one year remaining on his current deal.
Funny how just a few short weeks changes the outlook and perspective in the world of sports. When November began, the Devils had been left for dead at roadside while the 'Cats were being celebrated for what was sure to be a big time bowl season unfolding. Here we are, the first week in December, and the Devils are the ones who are celebrating while the Cats are left to ask themselves for many months, "What the hell just happened?"