Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior quarterback leads on and off the field
The only true test for a leader is to succeed in battle.
To say that fifth-year senior quarterback Ortege Jenkins has just succeeded as the starting quarterback for the Arizona Wildcats this season is an understatement.
Against Washington State last Saturday, Jenkins was the leader not only on the field but on the sideline as well.
When things looked down for the Wildcats, players looked to Jenkins for advice for one reason - "He has been there before," sophomore running back Larry Croom said.
The Wildcats, who were down by 12 points at one point in the game, kept fighting with the guidance of their quarterback. Jenkins had his best game of the season, completing 15 of 30 passes for 236 yards, and had three touchdowns in the victory.
Despite the 53-47 victory that kept the Wildcats in a first place tie with Oregon, a team they face this weekend in Eugene, Ore., Jenkins went through some tough times in the game.
With a tied score late in the fourth quarter, Washington State cornerback Chris Martin intercepted a pass from Jenkins and ran it back for a touchdown, giving WSU the lead.
"I am never going to get down for throwing an interception," Jenkins said. "I've got to bounce back and let the offensive line and the whole team know that I am not down, so you guys don't get down. It's things you do - you just have to adjust."
Adjust is what Jenkins and the Wildcats did.
Orchestrating a 67-yard drive that led to a one-yard touchdown catch by junior full back Mike Detwiler, Jenkins helped tie the score. The touchdown was the final score before the three overtime periods took place.
Last season, when things looked down for Jenkins, ex-Wildcat quarterback Keith Smith came in and tried to change things up.
This season, though, Jenkins knows the job is his to lose.
"I know nobody is going to come in for me," said Jenkins. "So somebody has to make it happen."
During his tenure at Arizona, Jenkins has shared the quarterbacking duties with Smith for the past two seasons after starting his freshman year due to injuries to Smith and Brady Batten.
With poor individual performances to start the season, Jenkins' final season in a UA uniform was not playing out as expected for the native of Long Beach, Calif.
Jenkins started the season with a dismal three for 21 passes and struggled to get the offense moving against Utah and Ohio State.
"I think he has done a great job," head coach Dick Tomey said. "Quarterbacks have to learn that it always doesn't work and you are not always cooking on all cylinders, and I think he has learned that, and I think he has worked through that, and I think he is comfortable."
Even if Jenkins did not have the type of start people expected him to have, the pressure to perform did not bother him due to the fact that the Wildcats were doing something more important - winning.
After a rough first two games, Jenkins has battled back to get his pass efficiency back up to 50 percent.
"I am still far away from being where I need to be and it's a lot," Jenkins said of his progress thus far. "Being a quarterback there are a lot of things that come into play, you got your linemen, you got guys dropping balls, it's a lot that goes into being a good quarterback.
"Hopefully at the end of the year I hope I can say that I am playing at the high level that I was expected to being playing at."
Jenkins has been a leader on the field all season, but a more valuable trait of the fifth-year senior might be his ability to help his teammates once they get off the field.
With only 29 seconds remaining in regulation, Jenkins threw a pass to a wide- open Malosi Leonard that was dropped in the end zone.
Instead of getting down on the junior wide receiver for dropping the ball, Jenkins ran up to Leonard and encouraged him.
On a key play in the third overtime, Leonard made up for his earlier blunder and stretched out to make a catch, which gave the Wildcats a first down and kept their final scoring drive alive.
"I just keep letting them know that if you drop this I am going to throw it at you next time too," Jenkins said. "I am not going to stop going at you and giving you a chance to make plays."