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TUCSON ¨C?The University of Arizona football teamed returned to the practice field on Thursday evening, after enjoying a night at the movie theater to se Rush Hour 3 on Wednesday night. Donning full pads, the Wildcats worked through their daily drills, including individual, group, special teams, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 segments.
Thursday evening was all about the defense, from the start of team drills until the end. The domination by the defense, combined with an extended 45-minute 11-on-11 period, added up to a very long day for the offense. It got even longer when the offensive coaches held the offensive players back for a meeting after Head Coach Mike Stoops addressed the team as a whole as he does after each practice.
Quarterback Willie Tuitama got off to a solid, but unspectacular start during team drills, completing 3-of-4 to start for 13 yards. After that, it was all about the men in blue jerseys.
Following an incompletion, safety Dominic Patrick broke up a Tuitama pass. Then, the defensive line turned up the pressure on the offense. D¡¯Aundre Reed worked his way into the backfield, and with solid coverage in the secondary, recorded a coverage ¡°sack¡± of Tuitama.
After a short gain by Xavier Smith, the defensive line took control of the action. Johnathan Turner exploded into the backfield for a ¡°sack¡±. One play later, Lionel Dotson bulled his through the line for a ¡°sack¡±, igniting an already emotional defense. Wasting no time, Turner again got into the backfield, forcing Tuitama to hurry on a deep pass intended for Mike Thomas that fell incomplete.
With the second team defensive line in, the pressure continued to mount on the next play. Donald Horton powered his way into the backfield to register a sack. Then, after a short rush by Chris Jennings, Ricky Elmore got a hand on Tuitama before he could complete a short five-yarder to Delashuan Dean.
The secondary would then join in on the action, as Devin Ross made his presence known. He jumped a short hitch intended for Derick Barkum, breaking up the Tuitama pass. Two plays later, he hit Xavier Smith, knocking the ball loose before it could be corralled.
Later, the defensive line continued its relentless play. Horton and Elmore teamed up for another ¡°sack¡±, after the secondary held its coverage. Reed again fought his way into the backfield two plays later, getting a touch on Tuitama before he could release the ball.
Showing no signs of letting up, the first team defense reentered. Ronnie Palmer sniffed out a screen pass to Chris Jennings, popping him hard right as the ball arrived for no gain on the play. Two plays later, Patrick jumped in front of a Tuitama pass intedend for Barkum and picked it off. Several plays later, Dotson again riled up the defense, as he shut down a short pass to Jennings at the line of scrimmage.
With Kris Heavner at quarterback, things didn¡¯t get much better for the offense. Reed again got to the quarterback before a throw could be made, then two plays later Heavner couldn¡¯t find an open receiver and had to scramble up the middle before the play was blown dead.
Tuitama finished the night 18-of-27 passing, with his longest completion going to Dean for 15 yards. Heavner completed 2-of-3 attempts, including a 15-yarder to Xavier Smith to close the night.
The Wildcats will be back to work again tomorrow, however the practice has been moved up to a 9 a.m. start, instead of the originally scheduled 5:45 p.m. start, and will be held on campus at the Jimenez Practice Facility. Arizona will then host Meet-the-Team Night on Saturday night in Arizona Stadium. Also on Saturday, individual game tickets will go on sale starting at 9 a.m.? For more ticket information, please click here .
?- In 7-on-7 drills, Tuitama completed 9-of-11 attempts, including a 40-yard connection with Mike Thomas.
?- In 7-on-7 action, Heavner completed 5-of-11 attempts, but was hurt by dropped passes from Barkum and Terry Longbons. He also had a pass broken up by Nate Ness.