Aug. 16, 2008
2008 Fall Camp – Willie Tuitama threw for 303 yards and five touchdowns as the Arizona offense broke out in a big way on Saturday morning, wrapping up the second week of Fall Camp for the Arizona football team.
Only days after offensive coaches ripped into their players for a lack of focus during practice, the offense responded with its best performance of this year’s camp, leading defensive coaches to question whether the lack of focus bug had infected the defense.
Coaches will be able to sort the answers out after watching film, but what was not in question in the second public scrimmage of Fall Camp was the performance of Tuitama. The senior from Stockton, Calif., was nearly perfect on the day, completing 21-of-25 attempts for 303 yards and five touchdowns – not to mention zero interceptions.
“I was really impressed with the way Willie threw the ball today,” Head Coach Mike Stoops said afterwards. “When we can give him time to pass, he can do great things.”
On the second drive of the day, Tuitama started to make those great things happen. His first pass of the series went to Terrell Turner for a 29 yard gain and put the offense across midfield. Three plays later, facing a third-and-one situation, Tuitama handed off to Keola Antolin, who was able to plow ahead for the first down. That set up a 27-yard Jason Bondzio field goal four plays later.
After a pair of drives led by Matt Scott resulted in interceptions, Tuitama and the first team offense reentered and didn’t waste anytime getting the momentum back. On first-and-10 from his own 30-yard line, Tuitama dropped back and looked for a wide open Rob Gronkowski on a post route for a 50 yard throw and catch. Two plays later, the senior quarterback fired a pass to Delashaun Dean in the endzone for an 18-yard scoring play.
The offense continued its passing assault two drives later when Tuitama’s unit returned to action. Once again on the first play of the drive, Tuitama aired it out, this time connecting with Terrell Reese for a 33-yard play. Two snaps later, Tuitama converted on third down, finding Bug Wright open for a six yard gain to move the chains That play set up the next score for the offense as Tuitama went back to his tight end Gronkowski for a 27-yard touchdown toss.
Tuitama’s next action came during a Red Zone period where each drive started at the defense’s 20-yard line. On his first set of plays, Tuitama’s went back to his quick-strike prowess. He handed off to Nic Grigsby for a two yard gain on first down, then found the sophomore running back open out of the backfield on the next play for an 18-yard throw and catch.
The defense was able to turn back Tuitama’s unit on the next series, as Antolin was stopped at the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-one play inside the five yard line.
However, Tuitama was back to work on the very next play to start a new series at the 20 yard line. This time, it was Turner who broke loose in the secondary, catching a 20-yard touchdown pass from Tuitama in the endzone.
To close practice, coaches charged Tuitama and the offense the task of getting a score in the two-minute drill with regular clock rules in effect.
The drive started like many others on the day, with Tuitama completing a long 22-yard pass for a first down to David Roberts. The clock was running after Grigsby picked up seven yards on a carry, but the offense quickly set up and Tuitama completed a pass to Devin Veal for a first down to stop the clock.
On the next play, Veal was tackled inbounds after a short gain, forcing the offense to call a timeout – their only available timeout of the drive.
The defense looked to turn away the offense as Marquis Hundley broke up a Tuitama pass intended for Wright near the sideline. But, facing a third-and-nine, Tuitama remained calm and read the linebacker blitz perfectly as David Douglas filled the vacancy over the middle for a 12-yard catch to move the chains.
With the clock running after the first down, Tuitama spiked the ball and huddled the offense for second down. His next pass went to Reese for an eight yard gain, but the sophomore receiver was unable to get out of bounds.
Tuitama quickly got the offense set up for the next play on third-and-two. He fired a short pass to Roberts for a five yard pickup, which stopped the clock and gave the offense a new set of downs.
With 19 seconds remaining, Tuitama hooked up with Dean on the very next play for a 10-yard touchdown toss, marking the end of the scrimmage and capping a breakout day for the offense.
While Tuitama and the first team offense were nearly unstoppable, the same could not be said for Scott and the second team unit. Known for his mobility, Scott racked up only seven yards on three carries, and threw two interceptions while completing only seven passes for 31 yards.
Even so, it was the most successful outing for a UA offense which is expected to put up the numbers it did on Saturday. With kickoff against Idaho on August 30 only two weeks away, Stoops hopes that the offense has learned its lessons from earlier practices where a more inspired defense dominated stretches of practice.
“We have a lot of playmakers on this team,” Stoops said. “But you have to make the plays when they are there. You can’t make plays if you are focused. We’ve been more focused the last couple days and we’ve started to make the plays we expect to make.”
And with one week of Fall Camp practices remaining, Stoops is pleased with what his team has shown over the last two weeks. His team will continue practices this coming week as the Wildcats return to Rincon Vista on Monday for two practices.
“We’ve had a really good two weeks,” Stoops said of camp. “I’m excited about where we’re at and hopefully by the end of the coming week we will be nearly 100 percent healthy. We’ve got a few more days of camp and then we’ll switch our focus over to begin preparations for Idaho.”
Note: Jason Bondzio hit a 55-yard point after touchdown with plenty of room to spare. No, the offense did not receive any excessive celebration penalties after score; rather, the team used point after touchdown opportunities to work on the field goal unit. Bondzio's career long is 49 yards and he attempted a 59-yarder against Washington State in 2007, which he missed wide but had enough leg. The school record is 57 yards held by Jon Prasuhn, Lee Pistor and Max Zendejas.
(Note: Plays from red zone situations and two-minute drill are included below)
Total plays – 61
Total passes – 41
Total rushes - 20
Total offense – 385 yards
Average per play – 6.31 yards
Total Rushing – 51 yards (sacks not included)
Average per rush – 2.55 yards
Total passing – 334 yards
Average per pass – 8.15
Average per completion – 11.93
First Downs – 16
3rd Down Conversions – 4-12
Willie Tuitama 21-25-303-5-0
Matt Scott 7-16-31-0-2
Nic Grigsby 5-29
Keola Antolin 6-12
Xavier Smith 3-7
Matt Scott 3-7 (sacks not included)
Nick Booth 1-1
Chris Gronkowski 1-1
Willie Tuitama 1-1 (sacks not included)
Nic Grigsby 2-23-1
Chris Gronkowski 1-8-0
Delashuan Dean 5-41-2
Joe Reese 2-11-0
Juron Criner 2-8-0
Terrell Reese 2-41-0
Bug Wright 1-6-0
David Roberts 2-27-0
Devin Veal 2-6-0
David Douglas 2-21-0
Total Stops (drives resulting in no score) – 10
Xavier Kelly- 7 tackles
Sterling Lewis- 6
Cam Nelson- 6
Trevor Foster- 5
Ricky Elmore- 5
Adrian McCovy- 3
Vuna Tuihalamaka- 3
Robert Golden- 3
Anthony Wilcox- 3, INT
Marquis Hundley- 3, PBU
Joe Perkins- 3, 2 PBU’s
R.J. Young- 3, PBU
Earl Mitchell- 1, ½ sack
Brooks Reed- 1, ½ sack
D’Aundre Reed- 4, 2 sacks
Devin Ross- 1
Corey Hall- 1
Josh Lewis- 1
Kaniela Tuipulotu- 1
Donald Horton- INT
Bobby Wuertz- 1
Apaiata Tuihalamaka – sack, PBU