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Arizona Football Closes Eighth Day of Spring Drills
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 03/23/2002
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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TUCSON, Ariz. - Arizona spring football practice continued to draw attention during the team's eighth session, with nearly 75 people in attendance. The Wildcats closed Saturday's session with a scrimmage at Arizona Stadium.

Head coach John Mackovic and staff put the Wildcats through skeleton punting and position drills for the first hour of practice. The Wildcats then engaged in a scrimmage for about 1:30 minutes. The scrimmage consisted of nearly 80 plays.

"We had a good day, but this is probably the shortest scrimmage we will have," said Arizona head coach John Mackovic. "We had some good hitting, but we still have lots of things that we need to improve."

"Our top priority for the spring is that each player improves his techniques. We will be a better football team if each player can find at least one thing to improve upon. Each individual will be better, and the team will be better for it."

UA's defense forced five turnovers - all interceptions. Junior safety Clay Hardt led the way with two picks, and sophomore linebacker Pat Howard, junior defensive back Gary Love and redshirt freshman linebacker Nick McCalmont each added one apiece. UA's defense also tallied nine quarterback sacks on the day. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Brad Brittain led the way with two sacks, while seven other players each contributed a sack in the effort.

"The defense got some turnovers today, and that is the mark of a good defense," Mackovic said. "We know that we have to make improvements on defense in terms of our effort and pursuit, but I saw some improvement today. We are still working on strengthening the cohesiveness of the defensive unit."

Howard led the team with four tackles, while sophomore defensive lineman Vince Feula and junior linebacker Matt Molina each had three tackles. Senior linebacker Ray Wells had two tackles, broke up a pass and had a sack on the last play of the scrimmage. Hardt and junior defensive end Andre Torrey each added two tackles and a sack.

Arizona quarterbacks Jason Johnson and Nic Costa split most of the duty in today's scrimmage. Senior Jason Johnson completed 5-of-11 passes for 90 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Johnson hit junior wide receiver Andrae Thurman for a 30-yard touchdown strike for the only score of the afternoon. Redshirt freshman Nic Costa completed 4-of-8 passes for 60 yards and had two interceptions. Walk-on quarterbacks Phil Linduska and Zachary Sparksman saw limited action. Linduska went 0-for-4 on the day, while Sparksman was 6-of-8 for 71 yards.

"On offense, Jason Johnson did fine, but it was really the first chance for Nic (Costa) to get in there. He made some mistakes, but he also did some good things. He will be able to grow and learn from today and make his performance better next time," Mackovic said.

Thurman caught two passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Gainus Scott, who had five rushes for 34 yards, also caught two passes for 45 yards. Junior wide receiver Lance Relford had two receptions for 29 yards, and junior wide receiver Juan Valentine had two catches for 15 yards.

Junior halfback Clarence Farmer rushed twice for 13 yards, and redshirt freshman Mike Bell picked up 11 yards on nine carries.

Senior kicker Sean Keel converted on the point-after-attempt following Thurman's touchdown and then made a 45-yard field goal. Junior Bobby Gill converted on a 35-yard field goal near the end of the scrimmage.

The Wildcats return to the practice facility on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. The team will close the week with a scrimmage on Friday, March 29 at 4 p.m.

Arizona is allowed 15 spring practices under NCAA guidelines and will conclude sessions with the Spring Game on Saturday, April 6 in Arizona Stadium.

All spring practices are open to the public. Most are scheduled on the practice facility at North Campbell Avenue and Enke Drive, across from McKale Center, but the Spring Game and some other sessions will be held in Arizona Stadium.

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