TUCSON ?C?The University of Arizona football team held the 14th practice of its 2007 Fall Camp on Tuesday evening at the Rincon Vista complex. Fans and media were treated to a surprise open scrimmage that lasted approximately 50-minutes.
After opening practice with routine individual, group and special teams drills, the coaching staff scratched the typical "middle drill" and 7-on-7 action for an approximately 60-play scrimmage that allowed the coaches to see the players in game-like situations as the ball was moved up and down the field, with soft tackling (first wrap-up, no full tackling).
The offense and defense matched up "1ˇ?s" versus "1ˇ?s" and "2ˇ?s" against "2ˇ?s" during the eight different series. Both Willie Tuitama and Kris Heavner found success early, but the defense remained stout inside the redzone. However, the offense eventually found the play-making it needed to finish drives and put points on the board as the scrimmage wore on.
On the first series, Tuitama and the offense got to clicking immediately. Chris Jennings gained nine yards on a four-yard run and a five-yard catch, setting up a third-and-one. Tuitama was able to draw the defense off sides, moving the chains. After a four-yard carry by Jennings, Tuitama hooked up with Terrell Reese for a 16-yard completion, before handing off to Jennings again for 13 more yards.
After a seven yard completion to Delashaun Dean and an eight-yarder to Anthony Johnson, the offense had first and ten at the defensesˇ? 20-yard line. Two plays later, they faced a third-and-three, but the defense stuffed Jennings for no gain, then on fourth down, Ronnie Palmer stopped Tuitama as he tried to scramble out of the pocket with no receivers open, thwarting the opening drive.
Heavner then took over the controls, and marched the offense right back down the field. After picking up a first down on Heavnerˇ?s three yard scramble up the middle, the offense had a false start push it back five yards to face first-and-15. Heavner bailed the offense out, finding B.J. Dennard open on the next two plays for completions of five and 23 yards. Then, three plays later following another false start, Heavner fired a ball into the out-stretched hands and arms of Dennard, who broke free for a pickup of 35-yards.
The offense couldnˇ?t capitalize, however, as on third-and-three from the 11-yard line, Corey Hall intercepted a short Heavner pass and raced into the open field untouched for what would have been an 87-yard interception return for a touchdown.
On Tuitamaˇ?s second drive, the offense pushed the ball to midfield on six plays, but was unable to do any more damage as Louis Holmes recorded a "sack" of Tuitama on third-and-10.
The offense would respond on the next set of downs with the second team on the field. On the first play, Xavier Smith found daylight and weaved his way for a 30-yard carry. After two short passes and a short Smith run, the offense went for it on fourth-and-two from the 42-yard line. Smith picked up 12 yards on a reception to move the chains and keep the drive alive.
A holding penalty put the offense behind the chains and facing a first-and-20 from the 40-yard line, but after an 11-yard pickup on a screen play to Nicholas Grigsby and an eight-yard pass to Dennard, the offense found itself in striking distance again. This time, Heavner, who threw for 122 yards, connected with Mike Turner for a 20-yard throw and catch for a touchdown.
Tuitama, who finished with 181 yards passing, and first unit were back on the field to face the first team defense on the next drive. Jason Parker batted an attempted screen pass down at the line of scrimmage before Jennings picked up four yards on the ground. Facing a third-and-six from his own 24-yard line, Tuitama found Johnson running behind Spencer Larsen and between the safetyˇ?s, where he caught the ball and raced 76 yards to the endzone for another scoring strike. Following the play, offensive coordinator yelled to the offense, "anyone can do it once, let's do it again!"
That would not be the case, however, as the first units stayed on the field for the next drive, where the defense forced a three-and-out, due in large part to Holmesˇ? second "sack", which came on second and five.
For the final two drives, one minute and thirty seconds was put on the clock, as the team worked on late-game salutations. The offense started from its own 25 yard line and was given one timeout per drive, looking to at least get into field goal range.
On the first series, a pass to Jennings went for no gain, before a five yard completion to Johnson set up third-and-five. With the clock already running, Holmes again got into the backfield, "sacking" Tuitama.
The ball was then reset to the 25-yard line for a second drive. Tuitama quickly found a rhythm, connecting with Jennings for five yards and Reese for 15 yards. On first-and-10 from his own 45 yard line, Tuitama hit Thomas, who hauled in the 11-yard completion and got out of bounds to stop the clock with 40 seconds remaining.
On the next play, Tuitama completed a tough pass to Johnson in front of Antoine Cason for a gain of seven yards. With the clock continuing to wind down, he completed a short pass to Jennings to the 37 yard line, and the offense called timeout with 12 seconds left.
Faced with third-and-one, Tuitama completed a pass to Reese for five yards, picking up the first down and temporarily stopping the clock. Tuitama quickly got the offense over the ball and spiked it with seven seconds remaing and the ball at the 32 yard line.
The field goal unit was hustled out onto the field. A good snap by Garon McHone, followed by a good hold by Keenyn Crier allowed to Jason Bondzio to boot a 49-yard field goal through the uprights as two seconds remained on the clock.
The Wildcats will return to the practice field tomorrow for its final two-a-day of Fall Camp. The morning practice is set to begin at 7:45 a.m., while the evening session will start at 5:30 p.m. As always, times and locations are subject to change due to weather or field conditions.
- Jason Bondzio was 2-of-3 in place-kicking drills to begin practice. He connected from 45 and 47 yards, while missing his first attempt from 42.
- Tuesdayˇ?s practice was rather short compared to most practices. Stoops mentioned that it was because the staff wanted to be able to watch film from tonightˇ?s practice and meet with the players before tomorrow mornings practice.
- Stoops said that Kris Heavner is currently the back-up to Tuitama, and will remain so should he continue to play the way he has to this point of camp.
- Defensive tackle Mana Mikaele sat out from live action during Tuesdayˇ?s practice, protecting a bruised foot he suffered after getting stepped on at an earlier practice.
Head Coach Mike Stoops:
On the eveningˇ?s practice:
"I thought it was really good. We wanted to change things up a bit and move the ball. It was good for both sides (offense and defense).
On backup QB Kris Heavner:
"Kris has played well. He looks like heˇ?ll hold his position. His release is better than it was and he understands a lot of the mental aspects right now."
On the play of the offensive line:
"The offensive line is much better. We have more continuity this year and our protections are better. They are working hard on blitz protections. If we can keep Willie upright, he will get us into good positions."
Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes:
On backup QB Kris Heavner:
"I like the fact that heˇ?s older than me [laughs]. No, I think it helps that heˇ?s played a lot of games and has some experience. Heˇ?s a student of the game and probably wants to be a coach someday. "
On the offensive line:
"The offensive line has played tough and physical. They are improving every day."
Tuitama: 16-22, 181yds, TD
Heavner: 10-13, 122yds, TD, INT
Total: 26-35, 303yds, 2 TD, INT
Rushing (sacks not included)
Mike Turner: 1-5yds
Johnson: 5-101yds, TD
Mike Turner: 1-20yds, TD
X. Smith: 1-12yds
Defensive Stats (tackles not counted)
Louis Holmes: 3 sacks
Jason Parker: 1 PBU, "tackle" of Tuitama for no gain on fourth down
Corey Hall: 87-yard INT return for TD