It had all the trappings of another Arizona State football implosion. It looked, for the entire world to see, like another close loss to a ranked team for no other reason than the talented-but-toxic Sun Devils couldn't get out of their own way.

Put the near-miss against Missouri next to last year's litany: Next to Wisconsin, next to USC, Oregon, Stanford, and on, and on.

There was another missed extra point. There were more brain-dead penalties, a dozen in all and strategically placed for maximum self-destruction. There was poor tackling by players expected to make them, a 14-point fourth quarter lead that blew away in a September storm, and enough silliness to nullify a highlight-reel's worth of great, positive plays.

But something funny happened on the way to frustration. Aaron Pflugrad kept catching passes. Brock Osweiler kept throwing them. And Missouri kicker, Grant Ressel - who had missed three of 48 career field goals in his entire career - missed two, including one on the last play of regulation that kept ASU's new black uniforms from becoming funeral attire.

Of course, it always helps when the kicker is iced (twice) by his own coach. Don't expect to see that strategy rolled out again anytime soon.

The 37-30 overtime win was perfect for an ESPN national audience, provided a good stress test for hardly-ever-full Sun Devil Stadium, and proved that if given enough chances for four hours, ASU can pull off a big win and make the big games ahead even bigger.

Amid all the lightning and lunacy - a dropped punt and Missouri converted a second-and-29 within minutes of one another in the fourth quarter - the thing that can't get lost in all the head-shaking and hair-pulling, is this Sun Devil team has a lot of weapons.

They have a quick-strike offense that puts pressure on teams used to playing in big games.

If Pflugrad has a few more eight-catch, 180-yard games in him, the Devils might have a very interesting November.

Farewell to "Beast"

During last year's Phoenix-Detroit hockey playoff series, I ducked into the Red Wings coaches office after a practice to say hello to two old friends.

Assistant coaches Paul McLean and Brad McCrimmon were both part of the original 1996-97 Coyotes. McLean was a full-time coach and McCrimmon was a part-time coach after injuries caught up to him in his final NHL season.

Affectionately dubbed "Beast" for his look, demeanor and merciless style on the ice, McCrimmon's spicy language and self-deprecating style made him a natural to move behind the bench. But after 15 years, McCrimmon hadn't gotten his shot as an NHL head coach. It was time to try the long way ‘round.

This summer, McCrimmon headed to Russia to coach the KHL's Yaroslavl Locomotiv. He hired another 1996 Coyote, Igor Korolev, as his assistant, and was on his way to make his debut Wednesday.

Then an aging charter plane that is commonplace in that country crashed and killed all but one player and a crew member.

Everyone McCrimmon touched in hockey, and there are so many, will miss the bowl haircut, biting humor and burning desire.

Quick Hitters

•Has a self-inflicted wound and a prison stint mellowed Plaxico Burress? Yeah, right.

In an interview with Men's Journal Magazine, Burress ripped his former coach (Tom Coughlin) for not loving him, his former quarterback (Eli Manning) for not visiting him in the slammer, and asked everyone else who giggled at his antics ... well, "How do you like me now?"

All that time to think, and apparently he didn't use any of it.

•Forget about who wants to play Philadelphia or Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs. Who wants to play Arizona? Save for a six-game hiccup at the end of August - yeah I know, while in Philly and A-Town - the Diamondbacks have steamrolled the competition. If they claim home field in the NLDS, the Phillies and Braves might be the ones jockeying for a chance to play Milwaukee during the last week of the season.

Too much? Maybe. But Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and this team on its home field is no picnic for anyone.

•Cardinals 31, Panthers 13: I'm picking this because: (1) I really think Cam Newton will struggle in his NFL debut. (2) I think Kevin Kolb might be better than the experts do. (3) If Arizona loses this one, the season could be over by Columbus Day. And who wants that again?

Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at


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