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Commentary: Defense stifles 'O' early on

By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, April 25, 2005
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Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said a downfall of spring practice is the defense eventually knows every play the offense will run.

For the first 60 minutes of Saturday's 105-minute Spring Game, this held true as the Arizona defense racked up 20 points on 11 forced fourth downs for one point apiece and three forced turnovers for three points each.

Sophomore safety Dominic Patrick did his part to protect the end zone Saturday with four tackles and an interception.

"I've been praying my shoulder would be ready. I caught two stingers last week in three days," he said. "I came in trying not to think about my shoulder."

The shoulder did not appear to bother Patrick, who made two of the hardest hits of the afternoon. Yet, keeping with the team theme of improving for the fall, he downplayed his tackling.

"Those hits could have been interceptions if I'd been there a second earlier, so there's always room for improvement," he said.

Rains capped the first half and ushered in the second, a 45-minute period that saw the offense bounce back.

Each of the game's three touchdowns were tallied in the second half en route to a final score of 47 offensive points to 26 defensive.

Sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason, who finished the day with seven tackles and an interception, said the defensive goal of summer workouts is finishing with the same intensity with which it began.

"We have to play very physical for two halves," he said. "Our work here isn't done. I'm looking forward to summer and a great season."

Redshirt freshman Ronnie Palmer led all Wildcats with nine tackles Saturday in his first game in Arizona Stadium.

"(It was great) just being out here with the fans in a game situation," he said of the game atmosphere, which included a crowd of more than 11,000. "It's a lot better experience out here."

The Wildcats showed their offensive counterparts a 4-3 set for most of the afternoon, keeping with Stoops' promise of fundamental football earlier in the week.

Palmer said that would likely change come the 2005 season opener Sept. 3.

"With our coaching staff, you never know what to expect," he said.

Joining Palmer in the tackle column on the afternoon were Andrew Ford, who had six hits, and three players who made five tackles: Brandon Lopez, Randy Sims and Lamon Means.

Stoops said Arizona's emphasis when team workouts resume this summer is on becoming stronger, both physically and mentally.

"Now it's time to go into another phase of our program, and that's the solid conditioning, then we'll go in the summer to prepare for a tough season," he said. "But if we do that, I think we'll be better prepared than we were last season.

"It's a long process, and spring practice is just the start," he said.

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