Dick Tomey thinks the fumblerooski must have been invented by Amos Alonzo Stagg.
“It’s as old as the hills,” he said, “but you’ve got to have the guts to use it.”
Three times this season, the Arizona coach has had the courage to call the play where the center drops the ball on the ground as though he were laying an egg, the quarterback runs a phantom option play and the left guard picks up the ball and runs for glory.
On opening night, it worked for 24 yards and a touchdown in the Wildcats’ upset over Illinois.
Three weeks later, it was stopped for no gain by California.
And Saturday in the Coliseum it went for 28 yards to set up the touchdown that put the Wildcats out of reach of USC, 28-17, early in the fourth quarter.
“Way to go, Speedy,” a teammate shouted to Mr. Fumblerooski, left guard Rick Warren, in the noisy Arizona dressing room.
“I probably should have scored,” said Warren, wearing a smile. “Or at least made a better cut.”
What Warren--all 6-feet-1 and 251 pounds of him--did was chug 28 yards to the USC three-yard line while the Trojans were looking the other way early in the fourth quarter.
As a matter of fact, few other people besides those on the Arizona bench saw exactly what happened.
“It’s called 13 fumblerooski,” Warren said. “Thirteen is our option play left. On the 13 fumblerooski, everybody else goes left and I go right.
“It worked tonight and against Illinois. I don’t think Cal knew what was happening, either, but some of their guys didn’t chase our quarterback, so I just fell on the ball.”
Tomey, who was an assistant at UCLA, said the fumblerooski has been part of his playbook during his entire head coaching career at Arizona and Hawaii.
“It’s pretty hard to stop because you can’t really prepare for it,” he said. “We practice it once a week and our defense can’t stop it.”
The Wildcat defense had less trouble with Todd Marinovich, who passed for only 174 yards and was intercepted three times.
Picking off two of Marinovich’s passes was Darryl Lewis, the cornerback who was last seen in these parts intercepting a throw by Tommy Maddox and running 70 yards for the game-winning touchdown against UCLA.
In his spare time Saturday, Lewis returned four punts for 79 yards, including a 42-yarder that set up the Wildcats’ second touchdown.
This hasn’t been a bad year for alumni of Nogales High in La Puente. When Lewis played second base there, one of the alums came by one day for batting practice. Somebody named Cecil Fielder.
“What do I remember about him?” Lewis said. “He hit the ball real far.”
Lewis’ future was in football, although only Arizona, Hawaii and Colorado State bothered to recruit him.
Tomey was the Hawaii coach. The Arizona coach was Larry Smith. And if Smith hadn’t redshirted him in 1986, Lewis wouldn’t have had the eligibility left to lead the Arizona secondary against USC.
“We have an outstanding secondary,” Tomey said. “But I think the key to our success against Marinovich was stopping their running game. No quarterback is as effective when he has to throw.”
One of Tomey’s assistants kept shouting, “You gotta believe,” as the Wildcats celebrated a week after being blown out by Oregon State.
“Actually, I had a good feeling about this game from Day 1,” Tomey said. “I had that same feeling all week.
“We deserved to lose last week to a team that outplayed us. Tonight, we outplayed USC and deserved to win.”
But, oh yes, there is still room for improvement.
“That guard needs to cut the corner better on the fumblerooski,” Tomey said.