Buck­ner sec­ond on team in catches

Ari­zona

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - DAN’S THE MAN Year School Rec. Yds TDS

“I didn’t sneak on the field,” Buck­ner said this week. “I will go out on a limb, though, and say I might not have been the best man for the job in that point in time. But I was called to go out there, and I did the best job I could.”

Coach Rich Rodriguez said: “In hind­sight, he shouldn’t have been in there. We should have had some­one in there who was 100 per­cent.”

Not that it mat­tered: the Wild­cats’ at­tempt failed, and ASU won.

For­tu­nately for Buck­ner — an Allen na­tive who be­gan his ca­reer at the Univer­sity of Texas — his fi­nal play at Ari­zona Sta­dium won’t be the last­ing me­mory of a five-year, two-school col­lege ca­reer. Buck­ner is ex­pected to play when the Wild­cats take on Ne­vada in the New Mex­ico Bowl on Satur­day.

Shoul­der and an­kle in­juries suf­fered over the last six weeks should be healed by then, the 6-4, 215-pound se­nior said, at least enough to let him be pro­duc­tive.

The Wild­cats (7-5) need him. Here’s why: ■ He’s pro­duc­tive. Buck­ner’s 59 catches are sec­ond on the team. No other re­ceiver has more than 25 re­cep­tions. Buck­ner is also sec­ond in both yards (741) and touch­downs (five).

Buck­ner’s ef­fec­tive­ness takes some of the heat off lead­ing re­ceiver Austin Hill, Ari­zona’s bud­ding star. With Buck­ner play­ing one of the two ■ When most of us last saw Dan Buck­ner, he was catch­ing a 2-point pass from Gar­rett Gil­bert in the fourth quar­ter of the 2009 na­tional cham­pi­onship game, cut­ting Alabama’s lead to 24-21. ■ He trans­ferred to Ari­zona in 2010, sat out a sea­son, and has played the last two years as a Wild­cat. ■ Buck­ner still wears the No. 4 jersey, the same num­ber he wore as a Longhorn. ■ At Texas, he played in 25 games, in­clud­ing seven starts in the 2009 na­tional cham­pi­onship game year. Buck­ner had 49 ca­reer catches for 529 yards and six touch­downs at Texas. ■ Buck­ner’s year-by-year: 2008 2009 2011 2012 Texas Texas Ari­zona Ari­zona out­side re­ceiver spots, Hill — a sopho­more — can move in­side to the slot, where he’s more ef­fec­tive. ■ He’s passionate. Buck­ner’s bois­ter­ous per­son­al­ity rubbed some team­mates and coaches the wrong way when he trans­ferred to from Texas two years ago. In time, 5 44 42 59 84 445 606 741 2 4 2 5 though, he has shown he’s much deeper than he seems. Over the past two sea­sons, Buck­ner has ma­tured into an un­likely leader and ideal team­mate.

“(Buck­ner) brings a great spirit. He al­ways has,” said tail­back Ka’Deem Carey, the Wild- cats’ best player. “I feel like I have to go out there and play for him. He brings a great mark to this team.” ■ He’s proud. Buck­ner has been im­pressed with his team’s 7-5 reg­u­lar-sea­son mark, even if three games — losses to Stan­ford, Ore­gon State and Ari­zona State — could have also gone the Wild­cats’ way. Buck­ner, while still at Texas, played for the 2009 na­tional cham­pi­onship against Alabama, but he saw no such success at Ari­zona.

Sim­ply mak­ing the post­sea­son af­ter miss­ing it a year ago is an ac­com­plish­ment, he said.

“Some peo­ple didn’t think we were go­ing to be able to win six, and here we are try­ing to win No. 8,” he said.

“We had our foot­ball ban­quet the other day. Hold­ing back emo­tions the whole time. I was like, ‘Man, we’ve been through a lot.’”

Cal SPORT me­dia

Ari­zona re­ceiver Dan Buck­ner tries to break free of a Stan­ford de­fender in a 54-48 loss to the Car­di­nal. The former Longhorn has 59 re­cep­tions this sea­son.

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