By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, August 23, 2004
All of the excitement surrounding the Arizona football team this off-season becomes a reality today when the Wildcats officially open the 2004 season with a light workout in preparation for their season opener Sept. 4 against Northern Arizona.
The Wildcats closed out their two-week preseason camp Saturday with a scrimmage at Arizona Stadium in front of an estimated 7,500 fans. The offense scored two touchdowns and a field goal and the defense intercepted two passes and sacked the quarterback six times.
"We're getting closer," said head coach Mike Stoops. "We're a much better football team than we were last spring and last week."
The scrimmage ran for two hours and saw the team go through 15 series.
"We're getting better every day," said junior running back Mike Bell. "We have a lot of mistakes we need to fix, but they are little ones that can be fixed."
Sophomore quarterback Kris Heavner showed way he was named the starter last spring going 20 for 28 for 212 yards and two touchdowns, but did make a crucial mistake throwing a pick in the end zone on the team's first series.
Stoops said he was impressed with the improvements Heavner has made in a short period of time, and complimented his quarterback on his ability to move the Wildcat offense.
"Heavner threw the ball as well as any quarterback I've seen in one night," said Stoops. "I'm happy with how he's throwing the ball and moving our offense."
Leading the rushing attack was Bell. He saw limited action with only nine carries, but picked up 59 yards with several impressive runs.
"We can all see what he brings to the table," said Stoops.
Junior running back Gilbert Harris and senior tightend Steve Fleming caught the two Arizona touchdowns, and former quarterback-turned-receiver Nic Costa added three catches for 39 yards in his first significant action away from center.
The Wildcat offense rushed 24 times for 143-yards and had 18 receptions for 239 yards.
With much of the praise coming from Stoops going to the offense, the defense was able to create four turnovers and stopped the Arizona offense from scoring in 12 out of 15 series.
"We didn't play as well as we would have like defensively. We've got to get better," said Stoops.
Junior safety Lamon Means and freshman cornerback Antonie Cason had the Wildcats' two picks and senior linebacker Pat Howard led the defense with eight tackles. Three other players recorded seven tackles for Arizona.
The special teams also made some news with sophomore Nick Folk converting on 2 of 3 field goals, hitting from 23 and 31 yards and missing from 37. Junior cornerback Dramayne McElroy returned the scrimmages opening kickoff 63 yards.
Junior safety Darrel Brooks was held out of the scrimmage with an injury to his upper leg, but isn't expected to miss any more time.
Team captains named
Prior to Saturday's scrimmage, Stoops named the team's captains for the season, voted on by the players.
"These are the guys we want leading us and I think they made great decisions," said Stoops.
Senior center Keoki Fraser, defensive tackle Carlos Williams, defensive end Andre Torrey, Brooks, Fleming and Bell all received the honor for the year.