Offense gets last chance at glory
 
 
By Tom Knauer Arizona Daily Wildcat

April 21, 2006

Tucson, AZ (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Fans will get their last chance until August to see the Arizona football team in action during tomorrow's 1 p.m. Spring Game at Arizona Stadium, and the Wildcats have their final shot to build some offensive momentum going into summer workouts.

The team's defense has all but dominated this spring, limiting the running game to spurts of effectiveness and keeping touted freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama in check over Arizona's open-to-the-public scrimmages April 1 and 8.

"Offensively, it's hard to get a good rhythm throughout spring football because you're going up against the same guys that ... have seen every single play that you run, time and time again," Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said. "It makes it a little difficult to get into a rhythm and getting into the tempo you want."

Stoops said the team will showcase about 60 to 70 percent of its total playbook, as he expects the scrimmage to go no longer than 100 plays.

Of importance, he said, will be conserving the energy of

players like sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason and junior safety Michael Johnson, who have yet to get a rest from regular duty.

"We got guys out there that we have to take to the next step, get to the summer and go on," Stoops said.

Getting improved returns from Tuitama and the team's rushing attack is an additional priority.

Tuitama impressed late last season in guiding the Wildcats to wins over Oregon State and then-No. 7 UCLA but has struggled to make his mark against what could be one of the best defenses in the Pacific 10 Conference this fall.

Versus a secondary that includes All-Pac-10 selections Cason and Johnson and a corps of linebackers who Stoops counts among Arizona's highest achievers this spring, Tuitama has completed just fewer than 50 percent of his passes, including a 9-of-24 performance April 8.
 

 

"Basically, our first two scrimmages as an offense wasn't that great," Tuitama said. "But I thought we did better (April 13) when we had a scrimmage out here, and we just have to carry that into (tomorrow). We had a great practice (Wednesday), and we just got to keep working at it."

Stoops said an effective passing attack will If You Go 2006 Spring Game Tomorrow, 1 p.m. Arizona Stadium Free admission Gates open at 11:30 a.m. be critical to the long-term success of the running backs, redshirt sophomore Chris Henry and redshirt freshmen Xavier Smith and Terry Longbons, who have averaged 3.5 yards on 58 total carries this spring.

"You look at it from the big picture and our backs have to get more consistent too, and really run the plays the way they need to be run, and that's just getting comfortable," Stoops said. "We've made it hard for them to run the ball consistently on us, and that's what a good defense does in (the Pac-10)."

Almost 12,000 fans showed up to last year's Spring Game, a 47-26 victory for the offense. Stoops said he expects a healthy contingent tomorrow given the program's increasing progress under his guidance.

"We've had a great following since we've been here, and I think it's been (because of) our ability to play hard, our

ability to stay in a lot of games," Stoops said, citing Arizona's five losses in 2005 decided by a touchdown or less. "I think people understand how close we are in a lot of certain situations. Our fans have been great, and I think (their support) will continually grow through each year."

Redshirt freshman guard Joe Longacre said his squad is excited for tomorrow's potential for improvement.

"I think we're really starting to come around as an offense and start clicking all on the same page," he said.

(C) 2006 Arizona Daily Wildcat via CSTV U-WIRE


 
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