Quarterbacks in charge

By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 22, 2005

QB Kovalcheck leads offense on two TD drives

The Arizona football team closed its fall camp Saturday night, putting a heavy emphasis on the passing game in a 75-play intra-squad scrimmage.

The Wildcats started the game with 11 passes in the first 13 plays and got good production out of the three quarterbacks - junior Adam Austin, redshirt sophomore Richard Kovalcheck and freshman Willie Tuitama -expected to line up under center this season.

"I liked the way they all threw the ball," said second-year head coach Mike Stoops. "They've come a long way. We feel like we have three really good players there."

Running backs Mike Bell and Chris Henry were held out of the scrimmage to give them a rest, Stoops said.

"We don't need to see them play, we know what they're going to do," he said. "We need to keep all our guys fresh. It's pretty uneventful now, but the main goal is to get out of (camp) healthy."

In front of approximately 7,000 fans, Kovalcheck led Arizona to its only two touchdown drives, both capped by short runs.

"I feel like we got in a rhythm towards the end there," said Kovalcheck, who sat out for all of the team's spring practices while recovering from offseason back surgery. He finished the night 9-of-16 for 111 yards and Arizona's only interception.

"I think we're right on track," he said. "We're playing against a defense that sees us every day and we're able to move the ball against them."

The defense controlled the scrimmage early, forcing the offense to go three-and-out in its first six series.

Senior defensive end Copeland Bryan led the Wildcats with three of the team's five sacks and senior safety Lamon Means hauled in the Kovalcheck interception on a tipped pass.

Once the offense settled down, they were able to move the ball effectively, mostly through the air.

Junior Adam Austin anchored two drives ending in Nick Folk field goals and finished the scrimmage 5-of-9 for 125 yards. True freshman Willie Tuitama went 8-of-10 for 68 yards.

"That just shows we have a lot of depth at the quarterback position," said offensive coordinator Mike Canales.

"They looked good," said freshman receiver Michael Thomas, who made the biggest splash of any Wildcat on Saturday. "It's good to have depth at the quarterback position because you never know what could happen."

Thomas grabbed four passes for 104 yards and scored on a sweep from four yards out.

"That's Money Mike," Canales said of Thomas, who hauled in two passes of more than 40 yards. "He's going to make big-time plays, and that's why he's here. He's got big-play ability."

Local prep product Xavier Smith, out of Sunnyside High School, scored the team's other touchdown with a 5-yard run.

The freshman running back ended the evening with a team-high 54 yards on 14 carries, while classmate Terry Longbons carried the ball nine times for 24 yards.

"I think this was a great night to complete what we've been doing and I think you can see the 'Cats going in the right direction," Canales said.

NOTES: The Wildcats will take today off before beginning preparation tomorrow for their Sept. 2 season opener at Utah ... Junior Syndric Steptoe was also held out of the scrimmage as a precautionary measure. Steptoe led Arizona in receiving last season with 30 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns ... Junior Nick Folk was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts hitting from 47 and 22 yards out, while redshirt freshman Jason Bondzio missed his only attempt from 46 yards.