Chris Jennings is a walk-on no more.
The junior college transfer rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns in Arizona's 28-10 victory over Stephen F. Austin Saturday night. Afterward, Wildcats coach Mike Stoops had some news for him.
"I told Chris that we are going to put him on scholarship on Monday," said Stoops of the former Fairview High School All-Stater.
Arizona needed a big night from Jennings and a late appearance by Willie Tuitama to put away the stubborn Division I-AA Lumberjacks.
Jennings, starting because Chris Henry was suspended for the game, became the first Arizona back to top 200 yards since Mike Bell -- now a rookie with the Denver Broncos -- gained 222 against Washington in 2003.
"He is very electrifying," Stoops said. "I'm really excited about what he brings. He's got a chance to be a special player."
Jennings, a transfer from Arizona Western College in Yuma, carried 26 times, including touchdown runs of 2 yards in the first quarter and 10 yards in the fourth.
"I'm grateful and happy that I've been given this chance, this opportunity," Jennings said. "It was there for me tonight, and I took advantage of it, and ran with it."
The Lumberjacks (0-3) from Nacogdoches, Texas, were no pushovers, leading 10-7 in the second quarter and down only 14-10 after three.
"I thought the kids played hard," Stephen F. Austin coach Robert McFarland said. "The deck was stacked against us talent-wise. I thought they gave us a little bit of a chance, but we didn't execute things toward the end."
Fifth-year senior Adam Austin got his first collegiate start at quarterback for Arizona (2-1) in place of Tuitama, who sustained a concussion in last weekend's 45-3 loss at LSU. But Tuitama, who hadn't practiced until Thursday, came off the bench to direct two fourth-quarter touchdown drives.
The first drive went 58 yards. On third-and-17, he threw 20 yards to Syndric Steptoe for a first down. Jennings capped the drive with a 10-yard scoring run to put the Wildcats up 21-10 with 10:35 to play.
Tuitama threw 3 yards to Anthony Johnson on fourth-and-goal for Arizona's final touchdown with 1:48 to play.
"That felt good," Tuitama said. "When I came in, the o-line told me I was going to have all day because they kind of felt bad for what happened last week, with some guys coming in free at me, and all of that. They did a nice job."
Henry was suspended for the game for "internal team matters," the Arizona sports information staff said. His backup Jennings responded with the 12th 200-yard rushing game in school history.
On Arizona's first possession, Austin completed his first five passes and the Wildcats went 79 yards in 12 plays. Jennings ran two yards for the score.
But things turned sour for Arizona, which opens its Pac-10 season next Saturday at home against Southern California. The Wildcats' Nick Folk missed a 33-yard field goal try, and Stephen Austin put together an 80-yard, 12-play drive to tie it at 7-7. Quarterback Danny Southall's 21-yard scramble set up Louie Runnel's 2-yard scoring run.
Arizona couldn't move the ball, and Kyle McQuown's punt went off the side of his foot for just 14 yards to the Wildcats' 28. Cory Long kicked a 37-yard field goal and the Lumberjacks led 10-7 with 6:02 left in the half.
After the subsequent kickoff, Jennings ran 41 yards to the Stephen Austin 16. Five players later, Austin sneaked in from inside the one to put Arizona back on top 14-10 with 2:01 remaining until halftime
Late in the third quarter, Timothy Knicky deflected Austin's pass and Damian Perkins intercepted at the Arizona 12. Long kicked a 27-yard field goal that would have cut the lead to 14-13, but Karl Glimp was called for holding, and Long missed one from 37 yards.
"Sometimes you play to the level of your competition," Stoops said. "And this wasn't a real spirited game. The talent level wasn't what we saw the last two weeks."
Chris Jennings is a walk-on no more.
This Week's Circulars
Perry Lee Holt, 70, of South Shore, Kentucky, passed away, Sunday, June 13, 2021, at his home in South Shore. Perry was born March 20, 1951, in Wurtland, Kentucky, a son of the late Lowell and Ruby Roark Holt. He was a member of South Portsmouth Church of Christ, loved the bible and retired …
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