Player of the Game: Clay Hardt

Clay Hardt is a poor man's Chuck Cecil, hitting hard, making big plays and pretty much assuring that the other team feels his presence on the field when the ball enters his space. Against Utah, Hardt had only one mission: Seek, Find, Destroy. And he did.

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The "Marana Mauler" came through with the play of the night when he crushed a Utah running back on a flat screen on fourth and three from the Arizona four-yard line. The play came with :11 seconds to go in the fourth quarter and allowed Arizona to escape with a 23-17 victory over the favored Utes.

Ute quarterback Lance Rice dumped the ball off to his left where he found an open receiver out of the backfield. Almost immediately, Hardt closed the gap and eliminated any free space the runner might have when he stuck his shoulder pads into his midsection and hammered him to the turf causing a turnover on downs and clinching the Wildcat win.

Hardt had several other big plays and hits on the night, including a clutch pass breakup with the Utes driving for a score late in the fourth. From his strong safety position, Hardt locked on to a streaking Utah receiver who had beaten UA cornerback Michael Jolivette deep. As the ball got to the receiver, Hardt smashed into him at the same time and forced the ball out of his hands, causing the driving Utes to have to settle for a punt.

For the game, Hardt had five tackles and each one played a part in either stopping or slowing a Utah drive.

Other players considered for the Player of the Game award were quarterback Jason Johnson, who passed for a career-high 416 yards on 24-34 passing and two scores. The 416 yards were only 11 short of Tom Tunnicliffe's school record of 427.

Bobby Wade (nine catches, 179 yards and a touchdown) and fellow wideout Andre Thurman (nine receptions, 162 yards and a touchdown) helped Johnson surpass the 400-yard mark.

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