Wildcats close fall camp with scrimmage
Reporter: Jason Barr, Sports Director
TUCSON, Ariz. – Wildcat Club members were treated to a special sneak-peak of the Arizona football team with a 90-minute scrimmage that featured big plays by the offense and defense on a sticky afternoon at Arizona Stadium.
“There were a lot of great plays out here today,” head coach Rich Rodriguez told his team. “But we didn’t have as much enthusiasm as I thought we would. This is a great stadium, a great playing surface and we want you to have fun out here. We start getting into ‘game-week’ from now on, so we have to play with more enthusiasm and execute better.”
Coaches scripted various scenarios throughout the action on Saturday, with offensive drives starting anywhere from the own 1-yard line to the opponents 3-yard line. Specific situations included the start of an overtime period, to a two-minute drill to a final play of the game.
When added up, statistics lean toward the offensive production, evidenced by 449 yards through the air and 179 more on the ground. However, the 95-play scrimmage pitted first, second and third string units against each other all afternoon.
Big plays were aplenty on both sides, and the defense produced the first such momentum-changer against the first team offense. On the second drive of the afternoon, Dan Buckner hauled in a Matt Scott pass and turned up field for a gain of 22 yards; however, Jourdan Grandon forced a fumble that Blake Brady jumped on for the first turnover of the day.
On the ensuing drive, freshman quarterback Javelle Allen connected with classmate Clive Georges for a 36-yard touchdown. Allen pump-faked and was able to get the defender to bite, before lofting a cleanly thrown ball to Georges streaking down the sideline.
The defense settled in nicely in the next few possessions, and came up with another turnover. The unit forced a pair of three-and-outs, before B.J. Denker marched the offense down the field on a 90-plus yard drive. But on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, the offense fumbled a handoff exchange in the backfield and the defense recovered.
Scott and the first team offense recaptured momentum on the next possession. Starting with the ball at midfield, Scott marched the Wildcats down to the 10-yard line before facing a fourth-and-goal. From there Scott improvised, first looking to his right before rolling back to his left. He then found Richard Morris alone in the back of the endzone for a 10-yard score.
Over the next four possessions, each side found a mixed bag of results. Denker led a 60-yard drive inside the 10-yard line before a missed field goal by Jaime Salazar. Scott found Sean Willett all alone behind the defense for a 54-yard touchdown strike. On the next two possessions the defense registered a three-and-out and held the offense to a John Bonano field goal.
The two sides then squared off in a simulation of overtime periods. The defense held on the first possession, aided by a pair of dropped passes. A 42-yard field goal try was missed by Salazar.
Scott’s only drives in overtime were highly efficient. He found tight end Drew Robinson over the middle for 22 yards on the first play. Ka’Deem Carey then took the handoff on the next play and outraced the defense to the pylon for a 3-yard score. Then on the first play of his final series, Scott pitched to Morrison on a reverse, and the slot receiver scooted 25-yards untouched for the score.
The scrimmage concluded with three “final plays”, where the ball was spotted on the 3-yard line and presumably just one second remaining on the clock. The defense won all three plays, forcing incompletions by Denker and Scott. The to cap the action, Vince Miles intercepted Allen on the 1-yard line to end the scrimmage.
Using the coaches’ scoring system used in practices, the defense prevailed with a 50-49 victory.
The Wildcats will now turn their attention to their game-specific preparations for their season-opener against Toledo. Coaches are expected to pare down the depth chart and begin putting together the two-deep for the opening game.
“We have to get better at what we can control,” Rodriguez said. “The one thing we can always control is our execution, and that has to be the focus starting tomorrow.”