Football Notes: Stoops preaches red-zone efficiency against Utah

By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 30, 2005

With the season opener at Utah just a few days away, Arizona football head coach Mike Stoops made one goal clear for his offense when it drives up the field Friday in Salt Lake City: play for seven.

The Wildcats managed only two field goals against the Utes in September at Arizona Stadium, despite holding their opponents to their lowest scoring total - 23 - of the 2004 season.

"Last year, we didn't have a very good goal-line or short yardage package," said Stoops at his first press conference of the season yesterday in McKale Center.

The second-year head coach said the offensive line's offseason work should equate to a more productive red-zone offense.

"We've made it a point to be more physical with each other (in practice)," said redshirt freshman offensive guard Joe Longacre.

Senior tailback Mike Bell, who fumbled in the red zone last year against Utah, said mental preparation is his goal.

"It's important ... to cut down on the mental errors," he said.

Stoops: New QB won't slow Utes

The Utes offense that averaged 46.3 points and over 500 yards per game a season ago underwent a facelift this offseason. Notably, sophomore Brian Johnson takes over at quarterback for Heisman finalist Alex Smith.

Stoops said that despite Friday's game being Johnson's first start, Utah should nonetheless present a strong running attack, a key to the team's spread-option offense retained under new head coach Kyle Whittingham.

"We can't let him get confidence out of the option," Stoops said of Johnson.

Joining him in the backfield is senior tailback Quinton Ganther, a player the Wildcat defense will focus on, Stoops said.

Overseeing Utah on that side of the ball is offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, a new arrival to Salt Lake City from Oregon.

Sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason said Arizona's returning players should recognize Utah's offensive schemes.

"(Utah) will probably run a lot of the same stuff as Oregon," he said.

Arizona may need to exploit that familiarity against a team that posted 326 yards of total yards in Tucson, including a 38-yard strike from Smith to departed wide receiver Paris Warren.

"We can't allow any big plays," said senior safety Darrell Brooks. "(The secondary) needs to close those gaps."

Other notes

  • The UA linebacker corps got a boost this week when Stoops announced that senior Randy Sims will be available to play in Friday's game.

    Sims missed all of last week's practices with a high ankle sprain.

    Stoops said senior Sean Jones, junior John McKinney and sophomore Dane Krogstad will see minutes at linebacker.

  • Junior B.J. Vickers garnered attention this spring at wide receiver, but starting Friday, Wildcat fans may also see the 6-foot-2 junior-college transfer on the defensive side of the ball.

    Stoops said Vickers has been lining up as a cornerback in the team's nickel package during practices.

  • Friday marks Arizona's return to national television after a nearly two-year layoff.

    The Wildcats last played before a national audience in November 2003 on TBS, as Arizona was on the losing end of a 45-0 decision against Southern Cal.

    "Everybody really wants to play in this game," Cason said. "We're the only game on, and everyone ... wants to make a name for themselves."

    Sports editor Tom Knauer contributed to this story.