Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 12/12/11
Could it be possible that Arizona State has Rob Gronkowski to blame for its sputtering coaching search? Allow me to explain. In case you missed it, New England's Gronkowski set an NFL record for most touchdown catches in a season for a tight end on Sunday with his 14th and 15th of the year ... and he still has three games to go. Click here to read more about it from FOXSports.com's A.J. Perez. Tom Brady helps a lot, of course, but Gronk's game-changing ability was readily apparent in his two seasons at the University of Arizona. It's hardly a stretch to say he was a game changer. Maybe even a regime changer. Gronkowski's size-and-skill set was so unusual he was practically undefendable in the Pac-10. Had he played three years instead of two, it says here that Rich Rodriguez might be coaching in Tempe. He almost certainly wouldn't be in Tucson. How so? Let's set the wayback machine to 2009. The Wildcats were coming off an 8-5 season and their first bowl berth in 10 years. Gronkowski, who has been All-Pac-10 and third-team All-American as an off-the-radar sophomore, was a genuine different maker in Sonny Dykes' offense. Then, just prior to the start of fall camp came word of a back injury suffered while lifting weights. What originally seemed to be a week-to-week issue turned out to be season-ending when Gronkowski underwent surgery. Even without Gronk, the Wildcats put up a second consecutive 8-5 record and finished second in the Pac-10 at 6-3. The three losses? Every one of them winnable: -- A fluky 36-33 loss at Washington when the Huskies scored the winning touchdown after a pass bounced off the foot of receiver Delashaun Dean (or the Husky Stadium turf, depending on your perspective) and into the arms of a Washington defender heading unimpeded into the end zone. -- A 24-16 loss to California that turned on Nick Foles' infamous double-pass when the Wildcats were driving for a go-ahead score. -- A 44-41 double-overtime loss to Oregon in which the Wildcats were so close to winning that thousands of students poured out of the grandstands to storm the field -- only to see Oregon tie it up with six seconds to play. Put Gronk on that team and the Wildcats probably win two, maybe all three. They go to the Rose Bowl. Recruiting improves. Mike Stoops buys at least another year. RichRod is available when LLove comes calling. Bingo.
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