TUCSON--True to head coach Mike Stoops' off-season transformation of the offense, the Wildcats came out mixing it up but heavily concentrating on the forward pass in a 90-minute scrimmage Saturday morning at Arizona Stadium
The three quarterbacks combined for 55 passing attempts and 300-plus yards in a modest display of the multiple spread Stoops brought in with new offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes, while UA kept what Stoops also has promised -- a bit of physical punch with a running game that added 185 yards and a score.
The latter, of course, was a two-edged sword, as Stoops and his brother, defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, were a bit chagrined at UA's run defense, but it also proved the Cats have changed their offensive style but still will "bring it" at opponents.
"Overall, I though it was a pretty good day," Stoops said afterward. "We didn't have great flow offensively -- there was still some hesitation -- but I like what we're doing. I love the way our kids are picking things up," he said.
"The spread creates some problems for you," Mark Stoops said. "But our linebackers have great experience and came up with that big play" -- a 70-yard interception off Willie Tuitama that Spencer Larsen returned 70 yards for a score.
Junior quarterback Tuitama completed 22 of 31 pass attempts for 155 yards and a touchdown of four yards to redshirt freshman tight end A.J. Simmons, plus led the drive later that culminated in the offense's other TD -- a six-yard run by Xavier Smith, who led all rushers with 89 yards. Tyler Lyon completed 12 of 16 and Kris Heavner added five of eight. The Cats had a total of 492 yards in offense.
Heavner connected for the longest play, a 45-yard completion to redshirt freshman Terrell Reese.
Dykes said the offense, stopped by the defensive units on its first several possession by penalties and a missed field goal, "was a little bit antsy at first. After relaxing a little bit we were able to move the ball better. The players understand the big concept, now it's a matter of getting them to make better decisions," Dykes said.
One thing the new offense did was put the ball in a variety of hands -- 14 different receivers including all three running backs. Smith had four catches with Chris Jennings and Terry Longbons catching two apiece. They, like others, get the ball quickly in the new offense. "Getting the ball to guys in space will help us," Dykes notes.
Mike Stoops was impressed with Tuitama. "Willie has a chance to be a very significant player" The scrimmage was a good start, he said, "the infant stage of our offensive game."
The offensive line had an average day protecting the quarterback, allowing three sacks by senior defense end Louis Holmes. redshirt freshman tackle Lolomana Mikaele and junior tackle Dave Bertrand.
Redshirt freshman punter Keenyn Crier showed that claims about his big leg are accurate. He boomed six punts for a 48.5-yard average, including a pair of 55-yarders. Junior place kicker Jason Bondzio hit two of four field goals in the scrimmage -- one was blocked by freshman defensive end Ricky Elmore -- and connected on four of six at the start. He made his two longest attempts, from 42 and 40 yards.
"Keenyn hit the ball well. He has a special leg and his future is unlimited," Stoops said. "Bondzio just needs to start gaining confidence. The early block on his first try wasn't the best thing to help do that," he said.
NOTES... A number of key starters didn't play, including starting cornerback Antoine Cason, sitting out partially in preparation for a date with the UA track team's spring relay later in the day, safety Dominic Patrick, nursing a sore foot, and corner Wilrey Fontenot, who is sidelined during much of spring while rehabilitating following winter shoulder surgery... Sophomore CB Devin Ross, rejoined the team Wednesday after missing earlier drills while "getting back in better graces with us," Stoops said. He lettered as a true freshman a year ago and could factor in UA's kick return game -- which was not a part of the scrimmage... The practice was UA's seventh of spring, with seven more scheduled and one to be added, possibly after the Spring Game April 14... A crowd of around 400 showed up on a sunny day at Arizona Stadium for the action...
Statistics ?- March 31 Scrimmage
First Downs: 24 (14 passing, 10 rushing)
Successful Offensive Drives: 4 (2 TD, 2 FG)
Defensive Drive Stops: 8, including defensive TD
Plays/Total Offense: 77-492, 6.4 ypp
Willie Tuitama: 31-22-155-1, 1 TD
Tyler Lyon: 16-12-1-68
Kris Heavner: 8-5-0-84
Xavier Smith 10-89, 1 TD
Chris Jennings 6-64
Terry Longbons 5-26
DelaShaun Dean 1-6
Total 22-185 (excludes sacks)
WR Mike Thomas 6-45
STE Anthony Johnson 5-49
WR Terrell Reese 4-65
RB Xavier Smith 4-29
WR Terrell Turner 3-31
TE Travis Bell 3-18
SHB B.J. Dennard 3-13
TE A.J. Simmons 2-18, TD
RB Terry Longbons 2-18
RB Chris Jennings 2-8
SHB Delashaun Dean 2-3
HB Brandon Lopez 1-7
WR Rod Rivera 1-5
STE Aaron Anderson 1-2
Keenyn Crier 6-48.5, 55 long (twice)
Jason Bondzio 22, 37, 37, 32
Plus in warm-ups: 32, 34, 36, 39, 40, 42
Offense: 4 (false start-3, holding)
Defense: 2 (offsides, pass interference)
Xavier Kelley (LB) ?- 10 tackles
Corey Hall (DB) ?- 6
Nate Ness (DB) ?- 6
Michael Klyce (DB) ?- 6
Marquis Hundley (DB) -6
Ronnie Palmer (LB) ?- 5
Louis Holmes (DE) ?- 4, sack
Devin Ross (DB) ?- 4
Dane Krogstad (LB) ?- 4, PBU, TFL
Cole Graybill (LB) ?- 4
Spencer Laresen - 3, INT (TD)
Brandon Tatum (DB) ?- 3
Dave Bertrand (DT) ?- 3, sack
D’Aundre Reed (DE) ?- 2
Ricky Elmore (DE) ?- 2, blocked FG
Michael Turner (DB) ?- 2
Jared Mosley (DB) ?- 2
James Alford (LB) ?- 1
Lolomana Mikaele (DT) ?- 1, sack
Yaniv Barnett - PBU