Aug. 9, 2008
TUCSON - The University of Arizona football team wrapped up its first week of its 2008 Fall Camp with a nearly 100 play scrimmage in Arizona Stadium on Saturday evening. It was the first live full-contact action the team has seen in camp and it left players and coaches quite pleased with the overall performance.
"Overall, I'm pleased with what I saw," head coach Mike Stoops said following the scrimmage. "The young players stepped up and did a lot of good things for us. Our offense struggled early, but we were able to do some nice things later on."
The Arizona defense, which has made its presence known throughout the early part of camp, dominated the first half of the scrimmage. The Wildcat offense showcased a more balanced attack than in recent days, mixing in a variety of running plays to a trio of running backs.
In the first five offensive series, the defense stifled the offense, limiting the players in white jerseys to only a pair of first downs. Willie Tuitama took the reigns on the first series, finding Delashaun Dean open for five yards on the first play from scrimmage. A pair of Nic Grigsby rushes got the chains moving, but the momentum stopped there.
The first offensive drive fizzled out, providing Matt Scott and the second team offense the chance to take the field. Scott completed his first pass attempt to Devin Veal and then handed off to Xavier Smith on the next play for a first down. From there, Scott and the offense couldn't muster any more yardage.
After two straight three-and-outs, the Arizona defense was hungry for another. Brooks Reed recorded a sack on the first play of the drive and then one play later he got his hand in another sack, with Mana Mikaele also providing pressure. Then, Tuitama dumped a seven-yard pass to Grigsby, who was tackled hard and low by cornerback Devin Ross.
Grigsby bounced up quickly from the play and took a swing at the helmet of Ross, starting a skirmish near the sideline. Players and coaches quickly broke it up, but Grigsby was ejected from the scrimmage for fighting by head coach Mike Stoops. The play resulted in yet another third down stop for the defense.
On the sixth offensive drive, Tuitama's unit was able to march the ball down the field. Smith provided the spark with a 20-yard carry down the left boundary on the first play of the series, putting the offense at midfield. Two plays later, Tuitama used a play fake and spotted Rob Gronkowski open on a flag route. The sophomore made an out-stretched leaping catch near the sideline to pick up the first down.
The drive stalled a couple plays later after Reed recorded yet another sack, forcing the offense to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Jason Bondzio.
Matt Scott then had his opportunity to lead the Cats on a scoring drive. On the first play of the series, Scott kept the ball on an option play out of the spread and scampered six yards. After a Veal catch for a first down, Scott found Nick Booth out of the backfield for a pickup of 18 yards and another first down.
The Wildcats picked up an offensive holding penalty on the next play, but Scott quickly went to the air and found Dean open for 17 yards. After an incompletion, Dean dropped what would have been a first down catch and forced a Jason Bondzio field goal attempt, which he successfully converted.
The defense then regained control for the next two drives, preventing the offense from reaching midfield. Reed continued to pressure the UA quarterbacks, picking up another sack of Tuitama.
On the 10th drive of the evening, Scott was able to lead to offense on its first touchdown drive, but not after near disaster when the freshman fumbled a shotgun snap. He was able to make the recovery and then showcased his running skills two players later with a 15-yard run for a first down. After a pair of incompletions, Scott then tucked the ball again for a first down on 3rd-and-10.
It was then time for Booth to get his touches, running on three consecutive plays and racking up 30 yards. That put the offense inside the 10 yard line, and allowed Keola Antolin to get his first touches. The freshman rushed for five yards on a third down play to pick up a first down at the one yard line. One the next play, Antolin took the handoff and plunged into the endzone for the score.
After some special teams work, Tuitama's squad returned to the field. The senior completed a swing pass to Smith for a gain of 16 yards, then he handed off three straight times to pick up another first down. But, the drive soon stalled after two short completions and an incompletion on third down.
Scott looked to provide some energy with his feet on the next drive as he faced third and long. With the pocket collapsing, Scott eluded pressure to his left side and looked down field to David Roberts who was behind the defense. Roberts made the catch for what would have been a 33-yard gain, but it was negated by a holding penalty and the defense prevailed with another three-and-out on the next play.
The Arizona running game then started to gain some momentum. With Bryson Beirne under center, Booth exploded through a hole for 12 yards on first down. After a six yard gain by Booth, Antolin took a handoff and rushed 18 yards for another first down. A 15-yard penalty was tacked to the end of the play and put the offense in the redzone.
Antolin picked up another first down with an eight yard rush to the six yard line, setting up first and goal. Booth carried the ball down to the two yard line on second down, allowing Sonny Dykes to open up the play book on the third and goal play. Terrell Turner came on an end-around and sprinted around the right side untouched into the endzone for another score.
With the offense gaining momentum quickly, the defense delivered punch of its own on the first play of the next drive. Tuitama dropped back and delivered a pass to Gronkowski over the middle for a gain of 1 yards, but linebacker Xavier Kelley was able to slow the tight end down and allow Nate Ness a chance to come in and deliver a blow that knocked the ball loose. D'Aundre Reed pounced on the fumble, turing the offense away.
Tuitama remained in the game and looked to lead the offense on another touchdown drive before the defense buckled down. After a Smith run, Tuitama found Gronkowski for a 15 yard pickup. Antolin then took four consecutive handoffs, including one to the left side where he put a brilliant juke move on Devin Ross for a nine yard gain.
With the offense inside the 10 yard line line, the defense clamped down and shut the offense out. Two short runs by Antolin set up a third and goal from the five. Cam Nelson broke up the Tuitama pass and the offense remained on the field for fourth down. But, Kelley denied another pass attempt with a breakup of his own.
The final drive of the night saw Beirne and Tyler Lyon both take snaps. On third and 10, Beirne got the drive started as he stepped up in the pocket and ran for a 10 yard gain. Lyon then entered and completed a seven yard pass to Derick Barkum. On the ensuing play, Turner took another handoff on an end-around and scooted seven yards to pick up a first down.
Lyon completed an eight yard pass to A.J. Simmons, before Greg Nwoko picked up a pair of six-yard rushes to set up first and goal. On third and goal from the two yard line, Nwoko took a handoff and plowed ahead for a touchdown.
The Wildcats will practice on Sunday, but the workout will be closed to the media and public. The team will return to Tucson High School for practice on Monday morning, resuming its 6:15 a.m. practice schedule.
"Overall, I'm pleased with what I saw. The young players stepped up and did a lot of good things for us."
"Our defense played really well, played with a lot of energy and intensity."
"Offensively we need to fine tune some things. This coming week will be an important one."
"The offense struggled in the beginning, but finally got in a rhythm. We played without some of our key players, Britton, Thomas and Grigsby, but we were still able to do some nice things later on."
"I am leased with the running backs. I think all three bring different things to the table."
"Scott was fabulous. For this being his first time playing, I was impressed. He is very poised and his very accurate. His maturity makes him older than his age. He's very unique."
On ejected Nic Grigsby from the scrimmagee:
"It's very disturbing what Nic did. It was a selfish act and he needs more poise. It will be dealt with and won't happen again. He will practice tomorrow."
Running Back Nick Booth
"It starts with the offensive line. They make the hole, I follow behind them. I need to continue to work and play with confidence."
Quarterback Willie Tuitama
"Overall, I thought we did ok. We started out slow, but finally found our rhythm and had some nice plays. I thought we did a good job of taking care of the ball."
"The running backs played well. When they run the ball well, it allows us to do more things."
Quarterback Matt Scott
"I was really excited about being out there. It was a good feeling."
"I am comfortable with this offense because we ran the shot gun spread in high school. I just need to continue to work and get better."
Offensive Coordinator Sonny Dykes
"I though we did some good things, but ultimately we need to be able to execute. The first team struggled, but finally found a good rhythm. During the third series (with the first team) you saw what we are capable of doing."
"The offense is designed for 11 guys to do the right thing. Tonight we had 10 guys doing the right thing and one guy doing the wrong thing."
"The running backs did some good things. We need to be able to run the ball effectively because we need to get the ball up the field."
"Scott played really well. He can make plays, he's cool and calm and he keeps improving everyday."
Willie Tuitama: 17 of 21 for 141 yards
Matt Scott: 8 of 15 for 72 yards; 6 rushes for 25 yards
Tyler Lyon: 3 of 4 for 19 yards
Bryson Beirne: 1 of 4 for 4 yards
Keola Antolin: 9 carries for 55 yards
Nick Booth: 7 carries for 64 yards
Xavier Smith: 11 carries for 56 yards
Terrell Turner: 2 carries for 9 yards and a touchdown
Greg Nwoko: 6 carries for 25 yards and a touchdown
Chris Gronkowski: 1-4 yards
A.J. Simmons: 1-8 yards
Derick Barkum: 2-11 yards
Terrell Turner: 3-29 yards
Rob Gronkowski: 5-62 yards
Devin Veal: 5-28 yards
Delashaun Dean: 4-31 yards
Keola Antolin: 3-4 yards
Xavier Smith: 1-16 yards
David Roberts: 1-3 yards
Bug Wright: 2-4 yards
Nic Grigsby: 2-10 yards
Terrell Reese: 1-9 yards
Kickoffs- 1st: TB; 2nd: On-side
Field Goals- 3 for 3 (attempts of 38, 50, 27) 50 yard would be career high
Punts: 1 punt of 40 yards
Kickoffs: 1st= goal line; 2nd= three yard line
Field Goals: 0 for 1 (attempted 32) blocked
Punts: 3 punts of 40, 40, 37
Punt: 1 punt for 35 yards