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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Spring football: Steptoe, Tuitama shine in final spring scrimmage”

    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Spring football game.
    Jake Lacey
    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat Spring football game.

    If Saturday’s annual Spring Game was any indication, Mike Stoops has nothing to worry about when it comes to Arizona football’s kicking department.

    Redshirt junior kicker Nick Folk nailed a 62-yard field goal and both of his extra points in leading the offense to a 29-20 win over the defense before an estimated 8,400 people at Arizona Stadium.

    Folk wasn’t the only member of the kicking game who impressed, as redshirt junior punter Kyle McQuown, who had to sit out last season following a transfer from Idaho State, crushed a few of his punts, finishing with nine punts for an average of 42.5 yards, including a 57-yarder that was fielded inside the 5-yard line.

    “”We’re going to be solid across the board,”” Stoops said of next season’s prospects. “”I think this team has really become a team. Each year, the guys get a little bit closer together and really work well together, and that’s what you need to win.””

    A modified scoring system was used to pit the offense against the defense in the 70-play scrimmage, with the offense getting points for touchdowns (6), field goals (3), plays of 25 yards or more (2), extra points (1) and first downs (1). The defense was awarded points for defensive touchdowns (6), turnovers (3), three-and-outs (2) and forced punts (1).

    The offense was clicking right from the start of the scrimmage, with redshirt sophomore running back Chris Henry’s 9-yard sprint and dive into the right corner of the end zone capping off the opening drive that saw the offense claim an 11-0 lead.

    “”Compared to our other scrimmages, I think today was a lot better,”” said freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama, who finished the scrimmage 10-of-21 with 145 yards and a touchdown. “”Our first drive … really set the tempo for us.””

    Henry finished with 34 yards on 11 carries and also caught a 12-yard pass.

    The defense quickly stepped up its play, cutting the score to 14-10 with three straight three-and-outs, but Tuitama and the offense responded by marching down the field in nine plays, capped by a 30-yard touchdown strike to freshman receiver Michael Thomas on 3rd-and-11 to go up 23-10 just before the half.

    “”We were able to come out and just move the ball and get some things done,”” said Thomas, who finished with three catches for 55 yards.

    The win was the first of the spring for the offense, as the defense took the first two scrimmages earlier this month, meaning there was a little extra on the line Saturday afternoon.

    “”We get to take the bragging rights home now,”” Thomas said.

    Added Tuitama of the defense: “”They’re going to probably talk some stuff in the locker room, just saying that they didn’t show us everything and all that.””

    Sure enough, sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason was ready with an explanation.

    “”Ah man, you know the Spring Game is offensive bias,”” he said. “”They give the points to the offense.

    “”No, but they played hard today,”” he added. “”We expect them to play hard. We’ve been trying to kick their butts so they can get better and get to the point where the coaches want them to be.””

    Cason, who finished with two tackles, capped the scrimmage with an acrobatic interception of redshirt junior quarterback Adam Austin, who was 5-of-19 in the game with 45 yards and the pick.

    “”Who cares what happened the rest of the scrimmage?”” Cason said of the interception. “”It put the defense on top.””

    Folk’s wind-aided monster of a kick came with the offense up 25-15 in the second half, clearing the goalposts by about six yards.

    He said he’s hit from as far away as 75 yards in practice, so when he nailed the kick during what was essentially a glorified scrimmage, he wasn’t the least bit surprised.

    “”I’ve gone pretty far back in practice,”” he said. “”I’ll back it up before games just to see how far I can go, just to get … a comfort range.

    “”But it’s good to get it done in a game

    setting.””

    His teammates, on the other hand, were speechless.

    “”Man, I mean – I don’t know how he did that,”” Tuitama said.

    The scrimmage was the 15th and final practice of the spring, but Tuitama was already looking forward to Sept. 2, when the Wildcats open the season against Brigham Young.

    “”Come BYU, I’m going to be ready to go,”” he said. “”Right now, we just got to evaluate everything we did in the spring and just try to get better in the summer.””

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