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Football sees offense improve

SAUL LOEB/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Cornerback Gary Love tries to tackle tailback Mike Bell during UA spring game on Saturday.
By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday April 14, 2003

In front of nearly 450 people at Arizona Stadium, the Wildcats' offense and defense scrimmaged for two hours in the team's annual spring game on Saturday afternoon.

The team showed much improvement over the last time it scrimmaged, on April 5, when the team looked sloppy on both sides of the ball, struggling to make big plays.

Mackovic said that although the team is nowhere near where it needs to be, he was happy with the team's effort more than halfway through the drills.

Arizona opened Saturday's practice with 30 minutes of drills and special teams work, followed by a nearly 80-play, two-hour controlled scrimmage.

"Everyone is getting better," said sophomore quarterback Nic Costa. "Offensively, we are coming together and defensively they are picking up their play."

The offense finished the day with a total of 353 yards, three touchdowns and two field goals, one each by kickers Bobby Gill and Nicholas Folk.

As has been the case with most of spring practice, much of the offensive attention was focused on the battle for the starting quarterback position.

Costa and freshman Ryan O'Hara split time under center once again. O'Hara was 13 of 22 for 167 yards and two touchdowns, while Costa connected on 10 of 20 passes for 105 yards and two interceptions. Both quarterbacks shared time with the first and second team offenses.

"They are making some improvement," said Mackovic. "Both of them had passes that should have been caught. I'm satisfied with them trying to get done what needs to be done, but I don't think anyone feels that they are ready to go yet."

Leading all receivers with four catches for 54 yards were senior Andrae Thurman and sophomore Biren Ealy. Junior Ricky Williams also contributed four receptions and amassed 53 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown reception from O'Hara. Walk-on Ben DiGrazia had the Wildcats' other score on a game-long, 41-yard touchdown catch on a hit and go from O'Hara. In all, 11 different players caught passes.

Sophomore running back Beau Carr led the team in rushing yards with 35 on 12 carries. Carr was also the only Wildcat back to reach the end zone on a 3-yard touchdown carry.

Similar to last weekend, the defense dominated the scrimmage early, holding the offense out of the end zone. But it could not keep it up the entire game.

"The key to our success will be an improved defense," said Mackovic. "There's no question in my mind and in our team's mind."

By the end of the scrimmage, the defense recorded three sacks, intercepted two passes and recovered two fumbles.

The biggest play of the scrimmage came with the offense on the 1-yard line when the defense caused and recovered a fumble by sophomore runningback Mike Bell.

Freshman cornerback Gary Shepard tallied a game-high six tackles, while sophomore linebacker Copeland Bryan and freshman defensive end Paul Philipp each recorded a sack. Both senior cornerback Gary Love and linebacker Matt Molina picked off Costa passes, as part of four Wildcat turnovers.

"Each time you get out here, you get better," said Costa. "We came out here and our whole team got better."

"There is a lot of work to be done and I'm glad we have two more weeks," said Mackovic.

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