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Duel in the desert: Final game a homecoming for Bell

Jacob Konst/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior running back Mike Bell celebrates after finishing a touchdown run during Arizona's 28-21 loss to then-No. 15 Oregon at Arizona Stadium. Bell will see his last action as a Wildcat in Friday's Territorial Cup rivalry game in Tempe, where he will need to amass 165 yards on the ground to surpass the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
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Phoenix native aims for milestones in last outing as Arizona Wildcat

When the scoreboard in Sun Devil Stadium reads double zeros Friday to mark the conclusion of the Arizona-ASU football game, it will mark the final time senior running back Mike Bell will step on a field in a Wildcat uniform.

Fittingly, it will be in the greater Phoenix area, the very same place his football odyssey began.

"It's going to be great to come home and play in Phoenix, at the place everyone thought I would go," Bell said.

Arizona's top rusher each of the last four seasons first gained notoriety at Tolleson High School, where in 2001 he left as only the second player in state high school history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons (2000-01).

Fast-forward four years.

Ninety miles south of his hometown, Bell has steadily built a legacy in the annals of Arizona football, and in the final game of 2005, he's looking to hit another milestone - his first collegiate season of 1,000 yards rushing.

Bell enters Friday with 835 yards on 173 carries this season.

"It'd be nice to get him 1,000 yards," said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. "He's come close."

Mike Bell

No. 11 - Senior
Running back
6-foot - 215 lbs.

Career stats
651 carries, 3,046 yards
(4.7 yards per carry), 16 touchdowns


  • Fifth on Arizona's all-time rushing list
  • Rushed for 153 yards and TD in 52-14 win over then-No. 7 UCLA on Nov. 5
  • 2004 All-Pac-10 honorable mention
  • Rushed for 139 yards and TD in 34-27 win over then-No. 18 ASU on Nov. 26, 2004
  • Rushed for career-high 222 yards and 3 TDs in 27-22 win over Washington on Nov. 8, 2003

Each of the past two seasons, Bell has been within double-digits of that goal, gaining 920 yards in 2003 and 950 a season ago.

Yet to the 6-foot, 215-pounder, the only goal of significance Friday is a second straight victory over the Sun Devils and retaining possession of the Territorial Cup.

"I'd rather have the win than reach 1,000 yards," he said.

Bell should get both if his performance betters that of last year's game. In the friendly confines of Arizona Stadium, he notched 139 yards in the Wildcats' 34-27 triumph.

"Mike's a terrific player and really has done some unbelievable things here through his career," Stoops said. "There's great stability when you look at him and (fellow senior running back) Gilbert (Harris)."

The duo of Bell and Harris has resulted in 1,197 yards and nine touchdowns in its final season at Arizona.

And though the Wildcats' 18-37 record in Bell's five seasons is not what he had hoped for, he said he will hold fond memories of his time in Tucson.

"It's more than wins and losses," he said. "The fans and the community have been so great and so supportive."

Mike Bell

He hopes to give the Arizona faithful one last celebration in Tempe with a win over ASU, which he said would be "the ultimate."

Once Bell leaves the field Friday, it will be the conclusion of one chapter in his life's novel.

But with the ending of one comes the beginning of another. Bell's journey is just beginning, and his attention will soon turn to April's NFL draft.

"It's always been a dream of mine," he said of suiting up in the pros.

Stay tuned for the next chapter.

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