Wildcats offense looks good but defense struggles in initial scrimmage
Reporter: Jason Barr, Sports Director
Note: The scrimmage was closed to the media but we caught up with coach Rich Rodriguez after the game and he talked about the defense.
SIERRA VISTA (Arizona Athletics) Quarterbacks Matt Scott and B.J. Denker engineered a highly efficient offense during the first scrimmage of Arizona's preseason camp on Saturday evening at Bujalski Field on post at Fort Huachuca.
"We have expectations for everybody to play at a certain level of toughness and intensity, and hopefully execution as well," head coach Rich Rodriguez said following the scrimmage. "If you're out there, the expectation is to play at a certain level. The physicalness wasn't there today. As a coaching staff, we need to make sure the players understand our expectations."
The Wildcats rolled up 552 yards of total offense, including 438 through the air, en route to eight touchdown drives, during the nearly 90-play scrimmage. Scott completed a nifty 16-of-18 attempts for 193 yards and added a touchdown on the ground, while Denker connected on 12-of-17 passes for 154 yards and a pair of scores.
The signal callers combined to complete their first 14 passes of the game for 174 yards as the offense asserted itself from the opening drive. Scott, a senior, led the offense on an 8-play, 70-yard drive capped by Ka'Deem Carey 5-yard touchdown run on the initial drive. Denker, a junior, followed with a 7-play, 70-yard drive as he found a rhythm with receiver Tyler Slavin, who hauled in five receptions for 68 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown grab.
"We have (receivers) who can run and catch the ball, catch anything that comes their way," Scott said. "I have no problem getting the ball out there and I trust them with every throw."
On the third drive of the contest, Scott and the Wildcat offense were marching for another touchdown before a false start on a third-and-goal pushed the unit outside the 10-yard line. After a completion, the offense intentionally took a delay of game penalty to give kicker Jake Smith a better angle, and he promptly booted a 24-yarder through the uprights.
"We had a lot of mental mistakes," junior linebacker Jake Fischer said. "We had them on third and long and we gave up a long pass or the broke through with a run. We'll watch the film and work to correct our mistakes."
Arizona's offense scored touchdowns on its next four drives, before the defense picked up some momentum of its own. With Denker behind center, Fischer and Tevin Hood registered back-to-back sacks to turn away the offense for the first time in the game.
On the ensuing possession, freshman linebacker Cody Ippolito recorded a sack on first down and the defense went on to pick up its first three-and-out.
One possession later, the defense again picked up a key stop. With the offense inside the 20-yard line, safety Marquis Flowers teamed with linebacker Shadow Williams to pressure Javelle Allen. The ball was knocked lose and recovered by Flowers, as the defense gained its first an only turnover of the game.
The offense reasserted itself in the final portion of the scrimmage, which focused on red zone situations. Denker led another scoring series, as did freshman quarterback Jack Nykaza and transfer NIck Isham.
"We've had a couple of bad days as an offense (recently)," Scott said. "It's back and forth. Tonight's scrimmage isn't saying much with how the defense performed."
The Wildcats will conclude their trip to Fort Huachuca on Sunday. The team will participate in the Leadership Reaction Courses in the morning, before returning to Tucson in the afternoon.
"We had a great dinner last night with some of the commanding officers and soldiers," Rodriguez said. "The trip has gone as smoothly as we could've asked. We had a great camp atmosphere."
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