Cougars Nearly Pull Off Upset In Desert Duel

Oct. 14, 2000

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    TUCSON, Ariz. - Leo Milles scored his second touchdown in overtime, andAntonio Pierce had an interception in the third overtime as No. 22 Arizona beatWashington State 53-47 on Saturday night.

    Jason Gesser threw six touchdown passes - two in overtime - for the Cougars,but after going 131 passes without an interception, he threw damaging pickoffsin the fourth quarter and the third overtime.

    The game was a continuation of an intense series - 10 of the last 12 gameshave been decided by 10 points or less. In the end, Arizona (5-1) won itsfourth straight and stayed even with Oregon at 3-0 for the Pacific-10 lead.

    The teams finished regulation tied at 33, and matched each other with twoTDs.

    But Mills, who had 70 of his 129 yards rushing on 12 carries in the fourthquarter and overtime, bulled in from 2 yards out to produce the final score.

    It was the third overtime series, so Arizona had to try a 2-pointconversion. Marcus Trufant broke up Ortege Jenkins' pass to Bobby Wade, whobeat the Cougars last year with a TD reception on the final play of the game.

    But when Gesser aimed for Nakoa McElrath, who caught three scoring passesearlier, Pierce stepped in front, grabbed the ball and ran to the sideline.

    Gesser, the top-rated passer in the Pac-10, completed 19 of 36 passes for348 yards - threw TD passes of 54, 19 and 19 yards to McElrath, 14 and 23 yardsto Milton Wynn and 68 yards to Deon Burnett.

    Chris Martin also scored on a 31-yard interception return, but the Cougars(3-3, 1-2) couldn't keep a two-game win streak alive, losing for the fourthtime in a row in Tucson since 1992.

    Jenkins threw three TD passes and scored on a 25-yard run on the firstovertime series - a trick play that involved a lateral exchange between Jenkinsand Malosi Leonard.

    That score made it 40-33.

    But Gesser tied it with his 23-yard pass to Wynn, and Anousith Wilaikul, whomissed an extra point early on and a 32-yard field goal in the fourth quarter,kicked the first of two extra points.

    Gesser passed to McElrath and Mills scored on a 1-yard run as the teamsreached 47-47.

    Jenkins threw a 56-yard scoring strike to Brandon Marshall, a 14-yarder toWade, and 1-yarder to Mike Detwiler to tie it at 33 with 5:31 left inregulation.

    The Wildcats took a 26-19 lead eight seconds into the fourth quarter whenClarence Farmer scored on a 1-yard run, but the defense couldn't hold.

    The Cougars, limited to 4 yards rushing to that point, got 25-yard runs fromBurnett and Dave Minnich as they marched 78 yards for the tying TD.

    McElrath scored it with his first 19-yard grab with 13:19 left.

    There were three turnovers in the first 1:35 of the game before the offensessettled in.

    But when Martin had his first interception and returned it 44 yards to theArizona 36, Gesser wasted no time.

    He threw a 14-yard pass to Marcus Williams and, after two penalties set theCougars back to the 31, found Wynn for consecutive completions of 17 and 14yards for the score 4:55 into the game.

    Arizona tied it when Jenkins, who nearly fumbled the snap in shotgunformation, threw his strike to Marshall with 5:39 left in the first quarter.Burnett made it 13-7 when he turned a short screen pass into a long play, andthe Cougars went up 19-7 on a fluke TD by McElrath, who caught the ball as itbounced off the fingertips of Clay Hardt and fell into the end zone with 5:12left in the second quarter.

    AP Sports Writer

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