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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Defense steps ahead in second scrimmage

    Running back Chris Henry is pulled down by safety Brandon Tatum  during the second football scrimmage of the spring practice season, Saturday April 8, 2006. (photo by chris coduto/arizona daily wildcat)
    Running back Chris Henry is pulled down by safety Brandon Tatum during the second football scrimmage of the spring practice season, Saturday April 8, 2006. (photo by chris coduto/arizona daily wildcat)

    There may have been people open downfield Saturday, but Willie Tuitama wouldn’t have known it. Antoine Cason helped make sure of that.

    After stopping the freshman quarterback Tuitama in the backfield for a short loss halfway through the Arizona football team’s second spring scrimmage Saturday at Arizona Stadium, the sophomore cornerback started repeatedly slapping one hand after the other on the signal-caller’s helmet.

    “”I was telling him some things,”” Cason said. “”‘Just keep working, Willie, just keep working.'””

    That message could apply to the entire Wildcat offense after it trudged through 90 minutes of inconsistency, but especially for Tuitama, who struggled hitting receivers throughout and finished 9-of-24 for 153 yards and a touchdown.

    “”There was a couple of times when we had people open, but I just couldn’t get the ball off because of the (defensive) pressure,”” he said.

    The Wildcat defense shined for the second week in a row, getting eight sacks, forcing fumbles from running backs Chris Henry, a redshirt sophomore, and Xavier Smith, a redshirted freshman, and deflecting passes thrown to nearly every area of the field.

    Its only major slip might have been a 78-yard touchdown from Tuitama to junior wide receiver Syndric Steptoe, who finished with 113 yards on four receptions.

    “”Besides that, I thought our defense had great position on the ball and made it hard for our offense to move the ball consistently,”” Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said about the competition between the first-team offense and defense.

    While Tuitama couldn’t lead the first team to a first down until its 10th possession, redshirt junior quarterback Adam Austin appeared comfortable all morning, at one point hitting redshirt senior wide receiver Eric Sheehan for a 52-yard gain.

    Austin, who took every snap at quarterback last spring in lieu of healthy alternates, finished 8-of-12 for 189 yards and a touchdown.

    “”I like what Adam has done. Adam can play,”” Stoops said. “”If the situation presents itself, he’ll do well.””

    Stoops gave less praise to the play of Arizona’s offensive line, which again struggled to hold blocks and committed six penalties, five of them false starts.

    “”Right now, we don’t have a lot a rhythm, and that’s something that’s a little bit concerning, this being our second week,”” he said. “”Eight practices in, I thought we would be a little better offensively.””

    Redshirt freshman running back Terry Longbons excelled in limited action, gaining 62 yards on three carries, including a 40-yard scamper.

    His backfield mates, however, struggled to make consistent gains. Henry (12 rushes, 36 yards, touchdown) fumbled for the second straight week as Smith (13 carries, 25 yards, touchdown) took his place in the first-string offense for a couple drives near the end of the scrimmage.

    “”We feel like we’re young at running back, with Chris, Xavier Smith and Terry Longbons,”” Stoops said. “”Terry had a great day today and made some really nice runs. Again, it’s just (about) finding time, getting comfortable with the college game, but I think we’ll have some good options come fall.””

    Arizona will not hold an open scrimmage next weekend and will have six closed practices before its annual Spring Game on April 22.

    Austin identified one priority for the team as it enters its two-week hiatus from the public eye.

    “”Just clean it up,”” he said. “”We got our plays in order, we have the right plays. I just think we just got to get the O-line blocking the right people, and, you know, (address) all the mental stuff. We just got to clean it up.””

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