Football ends dismal season with loss to rival Sun Devils


By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, December 1, 2003

For the first time since joining the Pacific 10 Conference 26 years ago, the Arizona football team finished in last place.

Contributing to the pain of finishing with the first 10-loss season in program history, their intrastate rivals, Arizona State, put the Wildcats there.

Arizona (2-10, 1-7 Pac-10) closed out one of its worst seasons on Friday with a 28-7 loss to the Sun Devils in Tempe in front of 55,498 fans.

"It's obviously a disappointing loss," said UA interim head coach Mike Hankwitz. "You have to give credit to Arizona State. They made plays that we need to make and we didn't make."

The Wildcats committed several costly penalties and had difficulty stopping Arizona State's passing attack throughout the contest.

"We were prepared, but it was just a matter of executing," said freshman wide receiver Mike Jefferson. "Everybody made mistakes. We shot ourselves in the foot."

Arizona was able to move the football effectively, gaining 456 yards of total offense, and held the ball on offense almost 10 more minutes than the Sun Devils. But the Wildcats were plagued by turnovers in the red zone.

Arizona had a chance to take an early 14-7 lead in the second quarter, but freshman quarterback Kris Heavner was intercepted in the end zone by ASU cornerback R.J. Oliver.

The Wildcats would never recover.

"We made plays to get down the field," Heavner said. "(But) when we needed to punch it in, it hurt."

Trailing 21-7, the Wildcats had a shot to pull within a touchdown later in the second quarter, but sophomore running back Mike Bell fumbled at the Arizona State 23-yard line, allowing the Sun Devils to regain possession.

Additionally, Arizona once again failed to convert on a field goal attempt.

Still trailing 21-7 in the third quarter, freshman kicker Nicholas Folk hit a chip-shot 23-yard attempt off the right upright. The Wildcats converted just two of 11 field goal attempts on the season.

"We had so many chances in the red zone. We just hurt ourselves with picks and fumbles," Heavner said. "We executed well to get down the field, but when we got there, we just hurt ourselves."

Heavner finished the game with one of his best efforts of the year, completing 21 of 32 passes for 252 yards and one touchdown.

"He escaped pressure and made some great throws," said Hankwitz of the freshman, who added that his performance "appeared to be" his most productive of the season.

Heavner might have also found a new favorite target in Jefferson.

The freshman wideout more than doubled his season total he had seven catches for 99 yards coming into Friday's game with a career-high nine-catch, 115-yard performance against the Sun Devils.

Jefferson also had the Wildcats' lone score on a 16-yard pass from Heavner.

"He was awesome," Heavner said. "He knew he had to step up this game, because we had some guys go down, but he played well."

Senior receiver Lance Relford was held out of the game with a thumb injury, while Arizona's No. 1 receiver, sophomore Biren Ealy, did not make the trip with the team due to a violation of team rules, according to Hankwitz.