“I thought there were a lot of decent things,” head coach Mike Stoops said following the scrimmage. “The defense has shown a lot of improvement over the course of the spring. We still have some kinks to work out on offense, but we showed signs of improvement. We’re pleased with what we got done this spring, but now we’re ready to enter that next phase of improving throughout the summer.”
Fans were treated to several big plays by the offense, defense and special teams. The offense outscored the defense, 29-20, using a modified scoring system to reward both sides of the ball. The offense could earn points by scoring a touchdown (6pts), kicking a field goal (3), gaining 25 or more yards on a play (2), gaining a first down (1) or kicking an extra point (1). The defensive system included points for a defensive touchdown (6), forcing a turnover (3), forcing a three-and-out (2), recording a stop on fourth-down (2) and one point for any other stop.
The offense came out of the gate quickly led by sophomore-to-be Willie Tuitama. The 6-3 signal caller hooked up with Syndric Steptoe for an 18-yard gain on a third-and two to keep the opening drive alive. The combo connected again on the next play, this
|RB Chris Henry scored on a 9-yard run off a cut-back similar to the one he put on Dominic Patrick (above).|
time for a gain of 33-yards to move the ball inside the defenses’ territory. The defense then held its own, forcing a third-and-10, but a face mask penalty negated a sack, resulting in an automatic first-down for the offense. On the ensuing play, Tuitama handed the ball off to Chris Henry, who cut-back to his right and out-raced the defense to the end-zone for a nine-yard touchdown run.
Adam Austin brought the offense back out on the field for the second drive, but the defense settled in and began to assert itself. Led by a Michael Shelton pass breakup, the defense forced a three-and-out to pick up its first two points of the afternoon.
After a 37-yard punt by Kyle McQuown, Tuitama re-entered as the offense looked to establish the ground game. Henry and Smith combined for 17 yards on a pair of rushes. The defense would not give-in, however, as Yaniv Barnett and Marcus Smith sacked Tuitama on consecutive plays to force another punt.
McQuown’s punt traveled 57 yards, where it was fielded by Steptoe at the five-yard line. With the ball moved out to the 20-yard line,
Michael Shelton led the defensive front, batting down two passes.
On the eighth series of the game, Tuitama and the offense started to find their rhythm again. Tuitama connected with classmate Michael Thomas for a pickup of 14 yards and a first down. Then after an incompletion and a short gain by Smith, Tuitama hit Brandyn McCall for a 10-yard gain on third-and-eight to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, facing another third-and-long, Tuitama avoided pressure and stepped up in the pocket to find Thomas behind the defense in the end zone for a 30-yard catch and score.
Both sides then took a break with a 10-minute intermission. At the half, the offense led the defense by a score 24-12.
Following the break, Tuitama came back out with the first team offense. He quickly connected with Thomas for a gain of 11 yards, and then found Johnson for an eight-yard pickup. The offense could not move the ball after that, however, as the defense forced a punt.
P Kyle McQuown averaged 42.5 yards on nine punts in his first action in front of the home-crowd.
Kris Heavner made his first appearance of the spring as he took over under center on the next drive. Heavner quickly hit Johnson for a first down and a pickup of 18 yards, then found Jason Argos in the flat near mid-field for a five yard gain. The defense would hold its own after that, forcing the offense into a fourth-and-long situation at the 45-yard line. The coaches sent Nick Folk out to attempt a 62-yard field with the wind at his back. Despite a poor snap, McQuown got the hold down, and Folk’s kick sailed through the uprights for what is believed to be an Arizona Spring Game record.
Tuitama and the offense couldn’t muster much on the next drive, as the defense picked up its sixth three-and-out of the scrimmage.
|CB Antoine Cason capped the game with a 35-yard INT return.|
Notes: CB Wilrey Fontenot did not dress out with the team, but Coach Stoops said it was for precautionary reasons. “Wilrey banged up his shoulder a bit with a bruise. We don’t need to take any chances.” ... Adam Hawes (foot) and Brad Wood (knee) both missed considerable time throughout the spring rehabbing injuries. Stoops commented on the importance of getting both healthy for the fall. “They are two guys we desperately need on offense.” ... Despite small nicks and dings, the coaching staff feels relieved to have otherwise gotten through Spring Ball with no new significant injuries ... Coach Stoops was pleased with the progress he saw throughout the spring from his young QB Tuitama. “I liked what I saw from Willie this spring. He has made tremendous strides this spring. He’s young and makes mistakes, but that is to be expected. We know what kind of plays he can make.” ... Stoops was also pleased with what he saw from the kicking game. “We really like what Nick can do for us kicking field goals. We think that is a real strength of our kicking game. And Kyle did a nice job punting. I think special teams will be a real strong area for us.”
|QB Willie Tuitama hooked up with Mike Thomas on a 30-yard catch and score.|
PASSING (17-43-213yds, TD, INT):
Tuitama 10-21-145yds, TD; Austin: 5-19-45yds, INT; Heavner 2-3-23yds
RUSHING (19-51yds, TD ?- sacks not included)
C. Henry 11-34yds; TD, X. Smith 6-16yds; Heavner 1-1yd; T. Longbons 1-0yds
A. Johnson 4-38yds; Steptoe 3-61yds; Thomas 3-55yds, TD; McCall 2-17yds, Richards 1-16yds, Henry 1-12yds;
Folk: FGs: 1-1 (62yds); PATs 2-2
PUNTING (No Returns):
McQuown: 9-383, Ave: 42.5, Long: 57
Palmer ?- 4; Larsen ?- 3.5; Ortiz ?- 2.5; Patrick ?- 2; Cason ?- 2; Kelley ?- 2; M. Smith ?- 2; Turner ?- 2; Barnett ?- 2; Dotson ?- 2; Hollingsworth ?- 2; Mosely ?- 1.5; Tatum ?- 1.5; Hall ?- 1.5; R. Parker ?- 1.5; Johnson ?- 1; Rodriguez ?- 1; Bertrand ?- 1; J. Parker ?- 1; Austin ?- 1; Alford ?- 0.5
Barnett ?- 1; M. Smith ?- 1; Turner ?- 1; Dotson - 1
TACKLES FOR LOSS (5):
Barnett ?- 2; M. Smith ?- 1; Turner ?- 1; Dotson - 1
Cason ?- 1
PASSES BROKEN UP (11):