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Phantom pain

Headline Photo

UA sophomore cornerback Michael Jolivette celebrates after breaking up a pass during a game against UNLV earlier this season at Arizona Stadium.

By Maxx Wolfson

Thursday October 4, 2001

UA cornerback Michael Jolivette recalls a mammoth shot from Oregon linebacker Wesley Mallard

A 4-inch scar on UA sophomore cornerback Michael Jolivette's chin is an everyday reminder of Oregon's Wesly Mallard.

Last season, in just his seventh collegiate game, Jolivette was blindsided by Mallard in a hit that some players - including Jolivette - still consider cheap.

Mallard hit him during the insignificant final moments of a UA punt where both players were yards away from the football.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Jolivette said. "I remember running down the field, and I was breaking stride, and the play was nearly dead, and I just looked to my left and I saw nothing but green in my face. The next thing you know, I saw my helmet in the air and it was all over."

Referees called no penalty, and it was clear from replays that the sideline official had his back turned toward the action on the field, looking away from Jolivette and Mallard.

Jolivette received 11 stitches, and many of his teeth were loosened. He missed the final three quarters of the Oregon game and most of the UCLA game the following week.

"I think it was a cheap shot because he put his helmet in my chin," he said.

UA senior strong safety Brandon Nash, who played special teams with Jolivette, remembers hearing the huge smash of the hit.

"I remember hearing a big old crack and a helmet flying 20 feet in the air," Nash said. "I was like 'wow,' and I was wondering who it was, and it was Michael. After looking at it on film, it was a cheap thing to do.

"He obviously went out of his way to do something like that."

Former UA head coach Dick Tomey was patrolling the sidelines last year and said he was upset no penalty was called on Mallard.

"The whistle blew, he slowed down, and the damn play was over," Tomey said. "You can't hit someone with your helmet."

Mackovic, Jolivette's current coach, said he has yet to see the play because he has not reviewed special teams tapes yet, but said he heard about it.

Since it was Jolivette's first game against Oregon, he said there was no history between himself and Mallard.

The two never met before the play, either. Mallard, a former walk-on, hails from Columbus, Georgia, while Jolivette is from Houston, Texas.

Is Jolivette looking for revenge Saturday when Mallard and the Ducks come to Tucson?

He said he doesn't think so, because he doesn't play on special teams often. But he told his teammates to watch for Mallard, who will be the Ducks' starter at linebacker.

"If I'm on special teams·but I don't play there as much this year," Jolivette said. "I told the offense to put in a good word for me or do something, so they said, 'Yeah, we are going to take care of that."

Nash said he doesn't expect anything to happen Saturday.

"We don't practice that kind of stuff or condone that kind of stuff," Nash said. "We are at here to play a clean, fun game. We don't go out of our way to do anything like that."

Some feel the hit changed Jolivette for the rest of the season.

Jolivette, who was named a first-team Pacific 10 Conference freshman All-American, led the conference with five interceptions before the hit.

After the hit, he did not intercept another pass all season as the Wildcats finished 5-6.

Nash said the blow probably affected his teammate, but probably not more than any other player in his situation.

"It probably affected his mind," Nash said. "He probably has his head on a swivel. It is probably nothing more than any player would go through after receiving a hit like that. It probably made him a little more aware."

A year later, Jolivette grew a goatee to cover up the gash.

This weekend, he'll find out how well he covers his mental scar.


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