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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Defense shines in Spring Game

Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

University of Arizonas Spring football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Apr. 10, 2010.
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona’s Spring football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Apr. 10, 2010.

Heading into the 2010 season, the offense was expected to be the headliner of the Arizona football team. But while the offense had some strong moments in Saturday’s annual Spring Game, it was the defense that stole the show.

“”It was a productive day,”” head coach Mike Stoops said. “”Defensively, I thought we made some big plays. (The defense) hadn’t made a bunch this spring, but obviously getting two touchdowns defensively was good to see.””

The defense played much more loosely and aggressively than it had throughout the spring, and the two interceptions returned for touchdowns were the ultimate sign of that.

The highlight of the game came when free safety Joe Perkins collected a tipped pass in the end zone, returned it out to the 25-yard line, and then pitched it to cornerback Trevin Wade, who sprinted the remaining 75 yards for the score.

“”I thought our first (string) secondary, in particular, played pretty well,”” Stoops said. “”I thought the corners played well, and that gives you a chance in the secondary to do some things.””

The defensive backs weren’t the only defenders who were ready to play. Defensive end Ricky Elmore dominated the line of scrimmage throughout, including two sacks on the first three plays of the game.

“”We did really good,”” Elmore said of the defense. “”Being a senior on this defense, I just tried to come out, and that’s what you have to do. You have to start fast, and hopefully everyone picks up.””

Elmore also gave a passing grade to the line backing corp, the group that has been under the most scrutiny throughout the spring.

“”A lot of those guys stepped up,”” Elmore said. “”Tackles for losses. They were a lot more aggressive, they didn’t make too many mental mistakes, they just did a lot better.

“”I don’t know what it was, but everybody played really good today, and hopefully we can continue that,”” he added.

Offensively, the Wildcats took a while to get started but eventually found their rhythm. New co-offensive coordinator Seth Littrell attributed the slow start to the installation of a new offense but said he was pleased with the effort.

“”Overall, throughout the spring, I think our guys worked extremely hard,”” Littrell said. “”We did a lot of different stuff offensively, a lot of new stuff that they had to learn. Throughout most of the spring, they came out and competed and had fun with it, and I think that’s a good start.””

Wide receiver Juron Criner led the way offensively with two touchdowns on four catches. Criner caught two fade routes in the end zone, easily leaping over Arizona cornerbacks to bring it in for the score.

“”I like (the coaches’) confidence in myself because I have (a) bigger frame,”” Criner said about the coaches consistently calling for a fade to him in the red zone. “”It’s just like my coach says, ‘it’s just me and the ball.'””

The quarterbacks don’t mind tossing it up to him either.

“”I like having (Criner) in the red zone,”” said quarterback Nick Foles, who threw for 74 yards and two interceptions. “”Last year, we had a good connection, and this year we’re looking to make it bigger and better.””

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