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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Seniors finally taste victory after years of defeat

    Wide receiver Syndric Steptoe returns a punt in last years 23-20 loss to ASU at Sun Devil Stadium. The senior leads the Wildcats in receptions this season heading into his final home game against ASU Saturday.
    Wide receiver Syndric Steptoe returns a punt in last year’s 23-20 loss to ASU at Sun Devil Stadium. The senior leads the Wildcats in receptions this season heading into his final home game against ASU Saturday.

    Three head coaches. Three losing seasons. But now, likely the postseason.

    That’s what this year’s group of seniors has been through in the past four – and in some cases, five – seasons at Arizona.

    So it’s not hard to imagine that there are mixed emotions heading into the group’s final home game Saturday at Arizona Stadium when the Wildcats host ASU at 4 p.m.

    “”It’s kind of scary,”” said kicker Nick Folk, a redshirt senior. “”I don’t know what’s going to happen after (the season), but there’s always going to be stuff that’s going on after.

    “”It’ll be fun, but sometimes, you never know when it’s time to move on.””

    Said senior defensive tackle Paul Phillip: “”It’s kind of sweet and sour.””

    As their final home game approaches with a chance at the postseason on the line – against the Sun Devils to top it off – there will be more on the line than in years past.

    “”I think it’ll have a lot of significant meaning for those guys,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”To put Arizona back in a very credible position I think would be very gratifying for those guys. They’re part of the guys that brought respectability back to the program.””

    To say the least, the 2006 class has had its ups and downs.

    The four- and five-year guys started their careers as Wildcats under former head coach John Mackovic, enduring losing season after losing season until Mackovic was fired midway through a tumultuous 2003 season.

    After a loss to Texas Christian in late September, then-defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz took over for the remainder of the season.

    Then, Stoops was hired on November 29, 2003 – a day after Arizona lost to ASU.

    “”It’s been a crazy time here, but like I tell everyone that asks me, I would never trade it for the world,”” said senior wideout Syndric Steptoe, who had his 27-game streak of consecutive games with a catch snapped last Saturday. “”I appreciate what I’ve been through.

    “”In my opinion, it made me a stronger person, so I’m kinda glad that I went through it, because it builds me for the afterlife of football.””

    But now, after Arizona’s 37-10 win at Oregon last week, the seniors are finally on the up.

    “”It feels good,”” said redshirt senior quarterback Adam Austin. “”It’s like ‘Finally, we’ve done it.’ And it’s our class that did it. We stuck with it.””

    With Senior Day around the corner, Steptoe said he doesn’t know what to expect.

    “”It’s a day that you think that would never get here, and when it does get here, it’s a surprise to you,”” he said. “”I know that this is my last home game in this stadium, so I’m just going to try and go out and give it my all for the fans.””

    Added Austin: “”It hasn’t really hit yet. I still feel like I’m going to be here next year, but I’m not.””

    It’s almost too story-book that after a career of finishing seasons on the final day of the regular season, Steptoe, Austin, Folk and their fellow seniors, including redshirt senior Marcus Smith and Adam Hawes, can now use that final day to extend their season.

    “”To accomplish what we’ve accomplished this year, it’s something that I’ve been striving for my whole career here,”” Steptoe said. “”So for us to do it now, I just thank my teammates for playing so hard.

    “”We know that the season’s not over, we know that we’ve got to keep playing.””

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