- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Last week, Chantel Jennings looked at the best wins for Pac-12 coaches. Chantel is a pleasant person, always looking for the good in folks.
I, on the other hand, can be unpleasant. And so we have a corresponding look at the worst losses of Pac-12 coaches.
Wanting to keep things local, I focused only on games during the coach's present tenure, though obviously we'll look elsewhere for our lone first-year coach, Oregon State's Gary Andersen.
Bad losses can be bad for a variety of reasons. They can be particularly painful because of the stakes. They can be painful because of the foe -- as in a hated rival. Or they can simply be embarrassing, a poor effort. Sometimes a bad game combines these blights into a truly noxious brew.
We start with the South Division.
Rich Rodriguez | 11/23/2012 | Arizona State 41, Arizona 34
The first inclination is to go with this past season's Fiesta Bowl, a 38-30 loss to Boise State, when the Wildcats were sloppy and seemingly uninspired against a team they should have pounded. Yet Rodriguez's first showdown with Todd Graham was ugly, a case of ripping defeat from the jaws of victory in front of the home fans. The Wildcats led 27-17 entering the fourth quarter and appeared to have taken control. But the Sun Devils found their offensive rhythm against a struggling defense and rolled up 24 fourth quarter points -- turning two turnovers and a blocked punt into three touchdowns -- to take the Territorial Cup, which has been spiced up because Rich Rod and Graham weren't even exactly buddy-buddy even before they took jobs at bitter rivals. While Rodriguez got the Wildcats seven wins, two over top-25 teams, and bowl eligibility in his first season, this defeat was pretty darn hard to swallow.
Todd Graham | 11/15/2014 | Oregon State 35, Arizona State 27
This could have been the oddly flat performance in the 37-23 Holiday Bowl loss against an overmatched Texas Tech team in 2013, but the oddly flat performance at Oregon State was more meaningful. If the then-No. 6 Sun Devils had not joined Colorado as the Beavers' only two conference victories, who knows how that might have set things up for the Territorial Cup against Arizona with the South on the line in the regular-season finale? Perhaps the Sun Devils would have played with just an itty-bitty bit more fire against the Wildcats knowing they were in the mix for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Who knows? As it was, ASU simply let up and allowed an Oregon State team riding a four-game losing streak to steal the game in the fourth quarter and end the Sun Devils five-game winning streak. Arizona State managed just three points in the fourth against a defense that yielded 33 points per game.
Mike McIntyre | 11/9/2013 | Washington 59, Colorado 7
Colorado has done a lot of losing in the Pac-12, but it has fought hard and mostly been competitive under Mike McIntyre, which is a credit to how he gets his team ready to play. This is pretty much the Buffaloes only white flag performance under McIntyre, but it was a doozy. The Huskies ran 59 plays and finished with 464 total yards in the first half alone. They led 52-7 after three quarters. They scored 21 points in the third despite running only five offensive plays. The final yardage tally was 628 to 299, despite the Huskies not attempting a second half pass. The Buffs only score came on a 53-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. It was just an ugly, ugly day as Colorado lost its 14th straight conference game, 13 of them by more than 20 points.
Jim Mora | 11/28/2014 | Stanford 31, UCLA 10
All UCLA needed to do to repeat as South Division champions and give themselves an outside shot at earning a spot in the College Football Playoff was beat an unranked Stanford squad that had lost five games. Instead, they got dominated in front of their stunned home fans. The Cardinal outgained the Bruins 436 yards to 262, as Bruins QB Brett Hundley turned in one of his worst career games. "To put a performance together like that, it's shocking," he said, speaking for all UCLA adherents. It was UCLA's seventh consecutive loss to Stanford and it ended a five-game winning streak, one that just a week before included a dominant performance against USC. While the impressive win over No. 11 Kansas State in the Valero Alamo Bowl took some of the sting off this defeat, it nonetheless is the biggest "What could have been" moment of Mora's tenure.
Steve Sarkisian | 11/22/2014 | UCLA 38, USC 20
When a first-year coach goes 9-4, your choices for worst losses are pretty limited, but Sarkisian had a couple that qualified as bad, starting with an embarrassing 31-27 loss at Boston College, a team that the Trojans should have beaten by three touchdowns. Yet if USC had beaten rival UCLA, Sark's inaugural campaign would have transformed from middling to successful. For one, the Trojans would have won the South Division, as they owned what would have been a tie-breaking victory over Arizona. Second, well, it's UCLA. If the Trojans had ended their two-game losing streak in the bitter city rivalry over the No. 9 Bruins, it would have earned Sarkisian plenty of street cred. Third, the Trojans just played poorly. They looked uninspired and underprepared compared to UCLA. If USC had beaten UCLA, Trojans fans would have fully embraced Sarkisian, pairing it with a win over Notre Dame in terms of rivalry success. As it is, the jury is still out. Or as Brett Hundley said after the game, "UCLA runs L.A., if you guys didn't hear last year."
Kyle Whittingham | 11/25/2006 | BYU 33, Utah 31
We're reaching back to the Utes pre-Pac-12 days for this one, as it's an oldie but a colossal badie. Utah overcame a 14-0 first-half deficit to take a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter in the Holy War. BYU rallied to take the lead, but Utah appeared to have saved the day when it got a go-ahead TD on a 19-yard touchdown from Brett Ratliff with 1:19 to play. But in nine plays -- including a fourth and 3 conversion -- BYU drove to the Utah 11-yard line with time for one more play. The Utes defense had everyone covered -- at first -- as John Beck scrambled around with no time on the clock, but then Jonny Harline seemingly transported himself from the firmament into a spot in the end zone where NOT A SINGLE UTE WAS WITHIN 10 FREAKING YARDS. Sorry, Utes fans but, you know, that replay is just... well. It was the Cougars first win in the series since 2001.
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