By Joel Flom
Jenkins continues incredible season
The way he has played this season, it's easy to forget that he is a redshirt freshman. His poise in the pocket, his decision making skills, are qualities like that of a fifth-year senior. So it's no surprise that after Ortege Jenkins' performance Friday night in the Wildcat's 28-16 win at Arizona Stadium in Tempe, he became one of the most prolific freshman quarterbacks in conference and school history.
With his three touchdown passes, Jenkins broke the record for touchdowns thrown in a season for a Pacific 10 Conference freshman. His 19 touchdowns tops Tommy Maddox of UCLA, who had 17 during his rookie campaign. Also, the 19 ranks him second all-time for touchdown passes in a season for an Arizona quarterback, one behind Marc Reed's 20 touchdowns in 1986.
Jenkins' 1,669 passing yards and 235 pass attempts place him 10th in school single-season history.
Oh, and he did it in just seven and a half games. Only seven if you count the time he was replaced by sophomore Keith Smith for the second half against California.
Jenkins finished the night 9 of 17 for 194 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted twice.
According to Jenkins, this is just a sign of things to come.
"This is a rejuvenated offense and people are going to end up respecting us the next couple of years," Jenkins said.
In the first half, Jenkins completed only six passes. However, half of them were touchdowns, including a 37-yard toss to his roommate, senior wide receiver Rodney Williams, and a 40-yard throw to his other roommate, sophomore wide receiver Dennis Northcutt.
Jenkins is quick to place thanks where thanks are due.
"I respect my receiving corps a lot more than people do," Jenkins said. "A lot of people don't respect our receiving corps, but we go through playing against one of the best corner duos in the conference in Chris McAlister, and also Kelly Malveaux, every day in practice."
Jenkins also knows the importance of good protection.
"In the first half, our offensive line played great against their defense," Jenkins said. "I still feel that they are one of the best (offensive lines) in the conference. I have my success because of the people that are around me."
Jenkins can thank his offensive line, especially center Rusty James for one of the most bizarre touchdowns of this season. As ASU free safety Mitchell Freedman tried to retreat after jumping over the line of scrimmage on a blitz attempt, James snapped the ball. Most players on both teams stood still, feeling that it was a dead ball. But Jenkins realized that the whistle had not blown and he had a free play, so he yelled at wide receiver Brad Brennan to head towards the endzone. Jenkins lofted the ball and let the wide open Brennan do the rest on the 29-yard touchdown connection that most of the players on the field watched from the line of scrimmage.
"It was a good play by Jenkins, but a lot of credit goes to Rusty James," Arizona head coach Dick Tomey said. "That is tremendous center play."
With the numbers he has compiled, the victories he has led, and the poise that he has shown, it will be interesting to see what Jenkins can do for an entire season. Especially considering Jenkins started the season as a third string quarterback and was used as a reserve wide receiver.