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Monday November 27, 2000

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Arizona State game marks end of an era

Headline Photo

By Ryan Finley

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Wildcats fall to in-state rivals for 2nd straight year

In the end, UA senior quarterback Ortege Jenkins wound up at the bottom of a pile - his helmet knocked off - as he lay sacked for the eighth time.

Jenkins' final down as a Wildcat Friday night at Arizona Stadium seemed somewhat fitting for a Wildcats team that ended the 2000 season losing five straight games.

The UA football team lost its second straight in-state title to Arizona State, 30-17, in front of 54,297 apathetic fans.

"We ran into a tough team," Jenkins said. "I thought we were going to get it done all the way until the last pass."

Friday's loss also marked the final game for UA head coach Dick Tomey, who resigned in the Arizona locker room following the game. Tomey, more popular among players than among fans, left the UA program after posting an 11-12 record in the past two seasons.

Arizona's final game of 2000 was indicative of the Wildcats' season. After starting the game looking strong, UA seemed to gradually get worse as the game went on.

"We shot ourselves in the foot," Jenkins said. "We didn't make the plays when we needed to make the plays. If you want to win, you do what it takes to win. We didn't do what it takes to win."

Arizona (5-6 overall, 3-5 Pacific 10 Conference) entered halftime with a 10-6 lead behind a 25-yard Sean Keel field goal and a two-yard Jenkins run for a touchdown.

However, three second-half Arizona miscues led to the Wildcats' demise.

With 12:09 left in the third quarter, Arizona State lined up for what would have been a 30-yard field goal. The ball was snapped and handed off to ASU kicker Mike Barth, who scampered 20 yards for the touchdown.

The fake field goal, ASU head coach Bruce Snyder's second in the past two games against UA, put the Sun Devils ahead, 13-10.

After scoring a touchdown and forcing ASU to punt late in the third quarter, Arizona started a drive at its own one-yard line with six minutes left in the period.

On the first play from scrimmage, however, a hand-off from Jenkins to freshman running back Clarence Farmer yielded a fumble in the end zone. ASU linebacker Terrell Suggs fell on the football, scoring a Sun Devils touchdown.

On its next drive, Arizona was facing a fourth-and-one situation from ASU's 40-yard line. As Jenkins delivered a hard snap count intended to lure the Sun Devils offside, UA senior center Bruce Wiggins snapped the ball. A stunned Jenkins was sacked, turning the ball over to ASU.

After driving 60 yards, the Sun Devils scored a touchdown to take a 27-17 lead.

Following the game, it was evident that the players felt responsible for the mounting public pressure that led to Tomey's resignation.

The Wildcats' loss to the Sun Devils put an end to a season that has gone steadily downhill since a 31-15 victory against Southern California on Oct. 7 at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. A week later, the Wildcats struggled to defeat lowly Washington State 53-47 in overtime. Arizona did not win another game all season.

"The coaches are our guides," Jenkins said. "It's not on (Tomey), it's on the players. We play, we practice and we turn the ball over."

With the season's end at hand, the UA football program will need to hire a coach while developing the team's young players.

"We've got to be men about it and make sure these young guys know that they have a lot to do during the offseason," senior defensive end Joe Tafoya said.

In the end, a 30-17 loss to Arizona State marked the end of something larger than any single game - an era.

"Coach Tomey has been like a father figure for the last 1,300 men that have come through this football program," Tafoya said. "I think he deserves nothing but a pat on the back and some good awards for that guy. He's a hell of a man."