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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

December 15, 2012 at 4:33 PM

A stunner of a start for Pac-12 bowl teams . . .

So I was about to sit down and knock out a little summary on how Arizona sleepwalked through its New Mexico Bowl appearance against an aroused and savvy Nevada team, and paid the price that teams usually pay with an uninspired, we’re-bigger-than-this effort in the post-season.

With about three minutes left in that game and Nevada around the Arizona 10 with a 45-35 lead, it was surely safe to turn over to the final few minutes and overtime of Indiana-Butler basketball game, which was a shocker won by the Bulldogs.

Come to find out, Arizona somehow scored twice in the last minute, sandwiched by a recovery of an onsides kick, and nipped the Wolf Pack, 49-48, in one of the real memorable finishes of recent years in any bowl game.

So the Pac-12 is 1-0, if ever so shakily. It seemed apparent to me that Arizona wasn’t really revved up to play, probably figuring a five-loss team from the Mountain West wasn’t much of a threat. ‘Zona, after all, was a 9.5-point favorite.

It got so bad at one point that the Wildcats, who fell behind by three touchdowns in the first half and three scores again in the second, had a dustup on the sidelines — caught by the ESPN cameras — between defensive tackle Tevin Hood and linebacker Cody Ippolito. Nice. Hood appeared to say something to Ippolito, who responded with punches that didn’t appear to land before they were separated.

Even as the Wildcats won, the game didn’t do a lot to dispel a national image of Pac-12 football as approximating the powder-puff variety. With Nevada on top 31-28 at half, ESPN studio analyst David Pollack (the former Georgia defensive end), said, “It’s embarrassing. It’s ridiculous. I mean, they’re playing flag football.”

For awhile there, the game almost resembled the Baylor-Washington Alamo Bowl of a year ago (not quite, though). In any case, it’s an improbable end to a successful (8-5) first season for ‘Zona under Rich Rodriguez.

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