TUCSON?-The Arizona football team wrapped up Fall Camp with an open scrimmage in Arizona Stadium on Saturday night in front of approximately 7,000 fans. Prior to the scrimmage the players and coaches held an autograph session as well as various activities for kids to participate in as part of Meet the Team night.
The 75-play scrimmage featured a back-and-forth battle between the offense and defense. There was no official scoring, but the offense scored two touchdowns and added two field goals as the offense displayed more of a vertical passing attack. Richard Kovalcheck completed nine of 16 pass attempts for 111 yards. Adam Austin was five of nine for 125 yards, and freshman Willie Tuitama was eight of 10 for 68 yards.
Head coach Mike Stoops was pleased with the effort of his quarterbacks.
“I liked the way all three of them threw the ball,” Stoops told the media following the scrimmage. “They all have great talent. They have come a long way. I feel like we have three really good players at that position.”
The Wildcats ground game featured a pair of freshman running backs as the coaching staff held out Mike Bell and Chris Henry. Xavier Smith carried the ball 14 times while racking up 54 yards and a touchdown. Classmate Terry Longbons touched the ball nine times for 24 yards. Another freshman, wide receiver Michael Thomas, also got one carry and found the end zone.
Stoops made it clear that the absence of Bell and Henry was not a concern.
“We held out Bell and Henry, obviously” said Stoops. “But we don’t need to see those guys play. We know what they can do.”
The offense came out throwing early. Kovalcheck connected with Anthony Johnson for back-to-back completions to start the scrimmage, including a 19-yarder. However, the drive stalled out as Copeland Bryan recorded a sack on third down.
Austin then took over and on his second series led the team on a five play drive capped off by a 47-yard Nicholas Folk field goal. The score was set up by a 46-yard completion to Michael Thomas.
The defense quickly responded with a big play of its own on the next drive. After a pair of Gilbert Harris runs and two short completions, Marcus Hollingsworth got his hands on a Kovalcheck pass that was deflected up and the air and intercepted by Lamon Means.
Austin and Thomas would again spark the offense on another scoring drive. Austin connected with B.J. Vickers for a first down on an 18-yard pass play, and then found Thomas on the next play for a 45-yard completion. The defense would hold deep inside its own territory, however, and forced another Nicholas Folk field goal, good from 22 yards out.
The offense would carry the momentum into the next drive as Smith found some room on the ground. The freshman carried the ball five times on the drive for 36 yards, including a 16-yard burst to get the chains moving. The offense marched inside the five yard-line, but was left with a third and goal from the four-yard line. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales called the number of Thomas, but this time let him run the ball. Thomas took the ball on an end-around and dove into the end zone for the first touchdown of the night.
“That’s Money Mike,” said Canales of the freshman receiver who has the impressed coaches all camp. “He’s going to make some big time plays. It’s evident when he gets the ball in his hands he can do big things.”
The offense would again find the end zone two drives later as Kovalcheck settled into a rhythm. The sophomore quarterback hooked up with B.J. Vickers for a gain 28 yards, and then dropped a 25-yard pass into the hands of tight end Ryan Kilpatrick just in front of safety Darrell Brooks. The offense then turned to Smith to take over in the red zone as he had a pair of five-yard gains, the second going for a touchdown.
“I didn’t think Rich (Kovalcheck) was very comfortable at first,” said Canales . “But then he found a rhythm and and got things going.”
Despite the success of the offense, the defense made its share of plays too. Bryan led the defensive charge with three sacks on the night. Linebacker Brandon Lopez recorded five tackles and Lionel Dotson batted a pass down near the line of scrimmage.
Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was pleased with the progress he saw throughout camp.
“We are a little deeper this year,” said the second-year defensive coordinator. “The players we have returning are stronger and faster. They are more explosive and have better technique. All of those combined should mean we are a more solid unit.”
The Wildcats will return to practice next week and begin preparations for the season opener at Utah on Friday, September 2. All practices will be closed to the media and public. Fans can next catch the Wildcats in Tucson at the home opener on Sept. 10.
Kovalcheck 9-16-1-111; Austin: 5-9-0-125; Tuitama: 8-10-0-68
RUSHING (24-82, 2 TD, ?- sacks not included)
X. Smith 14-54, TD; T. Longbons 9-24; M. Thomas 1-4, TD; M. Bell 1-1
M. Thomas 4-107, TD; A. Johnson 4-40; B.J. Vickers 2-46, R. Kilpatrick 2-30; Tr. Bell 2-20; R. Eidson 2-9; M. Jefferson 2-6; G. Rodriguez 1-15; M. Richards 1-10; A. Grant 1-9; B. Dennard 1-7; X. Smith 1-5
FIELD GOALS (2-3)
Folk: (2-2) 47, 22; Bondzio: (0-1) 46
C. Bryan 5, B. Lopez 5, S. Jones 5, D. McElroy 4, R. Palmer 4, A. Cason 3, M. Shelton 3, M. Johnson 3, M. Klyce 3, L. Dotson 2, L. Means 2, W. Fontenot 2, M. Beach 2, D. Patrick 2, L. Ball 2, Max Johnson 2, J. Samoy 2, Ortiz 2, D. Garcy 2, J. Parker 1, D. Brooks 1, M. Hollingsworth 1, B. Tatum 1, G. Fields 1, P. Phillip 1, Y. Barnett 1, A. McCovey 1
C. Bryan 3, Shelton 1, Fields 1
TACKLES FOR LOSS (4):
Lopez, Fields, Beach
PASSES BROKEN UP (2):
Baugher 3-152, ave: 50.7
Camp Highlights:Head coach Mike Stoops successfully juggled the fall camp practice schedule around the monsoon thunderstorms to get all 19 practices in rain-free ... The team held four two-a-day practices ... Twice the practice location was changed from the Rincon Vista Complex to Pima Community College East Campus due to poor field conditions ... The team unveiled its new uniforms on media day showing off five possible uniform combinations, including a new red jersey ... Quarterback Richard Kovalcheck returned to the huddle after missing all of spring practice recovering from off-season surgery ... The Wildcats welcomed in 15 true freshman to the club ... Adam Hawes and J.C. Zahradnik joined Michael Johnson, Byron Smith and B.J. Vickers as junior college transfers expected to be contributors in 2005 ... A handful of players suffered minor injuries throughout camp, but fortunately none missed any significant amount time and are expected to be near full strength next week ... Kicker Nick Folk was a perfect 5 out of 5 in live kicking situations during the two scrimmages.