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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Vegas Vindication

    LAS VEGAS – As confetti drifted down over the Arizona players following a 31-21 win against then-No. 17 Brigham Young University in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl, no Wildcat looked happier than the seniors.

    For some, including fifth-year senior Jason Bondzio, the bowl game victory was a perfect ending for careers that started off on a sour note.

    “”It’s tremendous, especially winning that last ASU game, winning this game, I couldn’t ask for more from my teammates,”” Bondzio said. “”The fifth-year guys, we’ve seen every single way to lose a game. I figure that might help a little bit with the veteran leadership, but I’m so proud of my team.””

    And he has every right to be.

    Arizona went 3-8 in his first season and now boasts the program’s first winning season in a decade to go along with the school’s sixth bowl win.

    Senior linebacker Ronnie Palmer, another fifth-year senior, was more proud of the way his teammates played in the game because of how much bad publicity the Pacific 10 Conference was receiving for poor play against Mountain West Conference teams – see the UA’s three straight losses to MWC teams prior to the bowl win.

    “”There was a lot of talk that was down on the Pac-10 this year and the guys, we wanted it so bad,”” Palmer said. “”We did it for the seniors and for the long struggle that we’ve been through the last four or five years, and it finally paid off.””

    It paid off in record fashion for a pair of Arizona’s most beloved players. Senior quarterback Willie Tuitama went 24-of-35 for 325 yards and three total touchdowns and was named the MVP of the game. Tuitama helped fellow senior Mike Thomas become the Pac-10’s all-time leader in career receptions within the final minute of the game.

    Thomas’ fourth grab of the contest put the wide out in sole possession of the record with his 259th career catch, passing former ASU wide receiver Derek Hagan.

    Thomas had a rough start to the game as he tentatively fielded a punt and had two drops in the game, but he made plays in the running game and passing game when his team needed him to. Once the game was the Wildcats’ to control, head coach Mike Stoops made sure the senior got the record.

    “”I was getting a little worried at first. We were in the victory (formation) but we got out of it and they got it to me and I’m thankful for it,”” Thomas said. “”I couldn’t ask for too much more.””

    Thomas finished the game with 56 yards on eight total touches, but he ended his career with a bowl game win and will leave his name in the record books.

    “”It started off a little rough for me but we got the victory,”” Thomas said. “”That’s all you need.””

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