Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Wildcats Claw Cougars In Overtime Thriller, 53-47
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: October 15, 2000
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    TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Leo Mills scored on a 2-yard run in the third overtime, and Antonio Pierce ended the game with an interception as No. 22 Arizona beat Washington 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 pickoffs in the fourth quarter and third overtime.

    The game was a continuation of an intense series _ 10 of the last 12 games have been decided by 10 points or less. In the end, Arizona (5-1) won its fourth 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 two TDs.

    But Mills, who had 70 of his 129 yards rushing on 12 carries in the fourth quarter 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-point conversion. Marcus Trufant broke up Ortege Jenkins' pass to Bobby Wade, who beat 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 passes earlier, 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 for 348 yards _ threw TD passes of 54, 19 and 19 yards to McElrath, 14 and 23 yards to 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 fourth time in a row in Tucson since 1992.

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

    That score made it 40-33.

    But Gesser tied it with his 23-yard pass to Wynn, and Anousith Wilaikul, who missed 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 teams reached 47-47.

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

    The Wildcats took a 26-19 lead eight seconds into the fourth quarter when Clarence 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 from Burnett 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 offenses settled in.

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

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

    Arizona tied it when Jenkins, who nearly fumbled the snap in shotgun formation, 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, and the Cougars went up 19-7 on a fluke TD by McElrath, who caught the ball as it bounced off the fingertips of Clay Hardt and fell into the end zone with 5:12 left in the second quarter.

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