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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Football passes through spring

    UA safety Brandon Tatum intercepts a pass from quarterback Willie Tuitama in Saturdays annual Spring Game at Arizona Stadium. After throwing interceptions in his first two drives, Tuitama recovered to throw for 292 yards and two touchdowns in the 93-play scrimmage.
    UA safety Brandon Tatum intercepts a pass from quarterback Willie Tuitama in Saturday’s annual Spring Game at Arizona Stadium. After throwing interceptions in his first two drives, Tuitama recovered to throw for 292 yards and two touchdowns in the 93-play scrimmage.

    Arizona sacrificed some flash Saturday for hopefully a little more smash on Sept. 1.

    The Wildcats kept a few guns holstered during the Spring Game at Arizona Stadium but still had enough firepower to defeat the defense 56-28 in front of 9,500 fans – with perhaps a few Brigham Young scouts among them.

    Arizona will open its 2007 season against BYU in Provo, Utah.

    “”Honestly, we didn’t hold back a ton of things, but we held back some things that are maybe a little different from what BYU’s seen from this offense in the past,”” said UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes.

    “”You always hold it back; you never know who’s going to be here. I’m sure that we’ll get a report from someone on BYU’s offense, and I’m sure they’ll get a report from someone on our offense.””

    Although Arizona finished with 551 yards, it struggled to execute at times, as reflected in quarterback Willie Tuitama’s two interceptions on the day’s first two drives.

    Tied 27-27 at halftime, Arizona picked it up in the second half, as Tuitama found wide receiver Mike Thomas for a 49-yard gain out of the gate and later hit wideout Anthony Johnson in the middle of the end zone for a 23-yard score. He also threw a 10-yard touchdown to H-back Brandon Lopez.

    Tuitama finished 24-of-39 for 292 yards.

    Statistical Leaders
    Junior Willie Tuitama: 24-of-39, 292 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions
    Senior Kris Heavner: 12-of-16, 84 yards
    Redshirt freshman Tyler Lyon: 9-of-15, 54 yards
    Senior Chris Jennings: eight carries, 39 yards
    Sophomore Xavier Smith: six carries, 31 yards
    Redshirt freshman Terry Longbons: seven carries, 45 yards
    Jennings: seven receptions, 28 yards
    Sophomore Terrell Turner: six receptions, 72 yards
    Junior Mike Thomas: five receptions, 121 yards
    Senior Anthony Johnson: five receptions, 50 yards, TD
    Sophomore linebacker Xavier Kelley: 10 tackles
    Redshirt freshman defensive end Ricky Elmore: two sacks
    Junior safety Michael Klyce: 39-yard interception return for TD

    “”We had a good day,”” said Thomas, who estimated the team spread 60 percent of its playbook over 93 offensive snaps. “”We had some bad things, as usual, but for the most part, we had a good day. We executed well. I think our confidence is in a good spot.””

    The first-team defense showed improvement from its last outing in a March 31 scrimmage, picking off Tuitama twice and holding running back Chris Jennings to 15 yards on his first four carries. Jennings got 55 yards on his first four carries of the earlier scrimmage.

    Still, the run game continued to flourish, as Jennings, Xavier Smith and Terry Longbons combined for 115 yards on 21 carries.

    “”When you call run, we’re going run, and when you need first downs, we’re going to come through for you,”” Jennings said. “”That’s for the offense. That’s what it says.””

    Linebacker Spencer Larsen said the defense played about the same as it did in the team’s first intrasquad scrimmage on March 31, when it gave up 492 yards of offense.

    “”They got some big plays, but for the most part, we got a lot of guys a lot of reps, and the overall spring, it was a great turnout,”” he said. “”Everyone is healthy, that’s the big thing. We don’t have any injuries. People were able to play here and get some reps.””

    Counting regular-season games, Tuitama threw his most passes since Sept. 30, when he matched his career high with 41 attempts against Washington. If official, his 24 completions Saturday would have tied a career high also set against the Huskies.

    Dykes said he thought Tuitama’s arm showed some fatigue as the game went on.

    “”That’s a part of spring football – we’re going to wear him out a little bit,”” he said. “”We’re not trying to get ready for anything, so he’s got to throw as many balls as he can.””

    Tuitama admitted his arm was a tad tired from all the snaps he’s taken this spring, but he attributed his interceptions to the ball slipping out of his hands on the first one and just making a “”poor decision”” on the second.

    He credited his second-half success to not forcing as many passes.

    “”Really, we were just in a better situation to make plays, and we went out there and did it,”” he said.

    The play that produced Tuitama’s long strike to Thomas was actually drawn up by a fan who won the team’s Coach for a Play promotion.

    Dykes laughed when it was suggested he had competition for playcalling responsibilities.

    “”We told (the defense) not to rush,”” Dykes said. “”You can throw it a long way when there’s no rush.””

    The scoring system gave the offense one point each for a first down and an extra point; two for a play of 30 yards or longer; three for a field goal; and six for a touchdown.

    The defense earned one point for a forced punt; two each for a failed fourth-down conversion and a three-and-out; three for a turnover; and nine for a defensive score.

    Safety Michael Klyce earned the defense 14 points when he plucked Tuitama’s second interception on fourth down and ran back for a touchdown.

    Extra points

    Thomas had five catches for 121 yards. … Kris Heavner and Tyler Lyon, who are competing for the No. 2 quarterback spot, played with a mixture of second- and third-string players. Heavner finished 12-of-16 for 84 yards, while Lyon went 9-of-15 for 54 yards. … Jennings had a team-high seven receptions for 28 yards. … Placekicker Jason Bondzio hit on four of five field-goal attempts but was short and wide right on a 51-yard attempt, his longest of the spring. … Punter Keenyn Crier averaged 34 yards on four kicks, compared to a 48.5-yard average on six kicks two weeks ago.

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