Arizona Wildcats safety Jared Tevis went up to defend a pass into the end zone and landed awkwardly on his left ankle, gruesomely turning it so it was flat against the ground.
“It was excruciating,” Tevis said after Wednesday’s practice.
“I knew I hurt it pretty good. I was looking down, making sure no bones were sticking out. I was scared to look down, but I did. It didn’t look too bad. So that was promising. It was just a really bad sprain. It could have been a lot worse.”
That all happened in the second quarter of the game against Oregon State on Sept. 29. Tevis actually returned briefly before half, but didn’t play after the break and then missed two full games before stepping back into his starting role Saturday against USC.
Tevis didn’t play a full game — as he did early in the season — sometimes coming out in Arizona’s third-down package, but he probably got around 60 plays.
“It felt good,” he said of the ankle.
“It wasn’t sore afterward. I’m still trying to get to 100 percent, but it didn’t swell up again or anything, so that was promising.”
Tevis made three tackles against USC, below his season average. He was part of 39 stops through the first four games, the team’s best defender. Playing the “Bandit” safety position, he had two interceptions and three forced fumbles in that span.
The sophomore should be closer to 100 percent this week against UCLA, which is led by redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley and senior running back Johnathan Franklin. UCLA is averaging 502.9 yards per game.
Tevis (5-10, 197) has been a key part of what has been a “hang-on” defense, as coach Rich Rodriguez describes it. The Cats played four walk-ons last week against USC, including Tevis, who earned a scholarship this summer.
In addition to Tevis:
–Redshirt freshman Sir Thomas Jackson started at outside linebacker, making four tackles, including half a sack.
–Junior Tevin Hood played as a backup nose guard, forcing a fumble.
–Backup safety Vince Miles recovered that fumble at the USC 37 late in the third quarter, a huge momentum play that allowed Arizona to score quickly and cut the lead to 28-26.
Miles, a redshirt freshman in his first extended playing time of the season, made three tackles, including an assist on another huge play on the ensuing series. He and cornerback Jonathan McKnight brought down USC’s Marqise Lee a yard short of a first down on an end around on fourth-and-2 from the Arizona 29.
Imagine. Four walk-ons doing that against USC’s future first-round draft picks.
Tevis said the defense will draw confidence by doing enough to turn away USC on the final possession in last week’s 39-36 win at Arizona Stadium.
“We’ve had a chance to come up big in a couple of games this year and haven’t been able to pull it out,” Tevis said. “That was big for us. We wanted to have the pressure on us and to pull it out.”