The Arizona Wildcats' first spring under coach Rich Rodriguez ended exactly the way it started, with talk of baby steps and closing speed, embracing new schemes and destroying old habits.
On Saturday, the UA showed enough progress to warrant promise.
Arizona's offense put up 597 yards and scored 10 touchdowns at its annual spring game, held before 4,800 fans at Kino Stadium.
However, one devastating injury and a handful of costly turnovers marred the formal start of a new era.
Safety Adam Hall suffered torn knee ligaments while making a tackle, an injury that could force him to miss part or all of the 2012 season.
Running backs Taimi Tutogi and Ka'Deem Carey fumbled on the Wildcats' first two series, and safety Marquis Flowers intercepted Richard Morrison's pass and returned it for about 40 yards a few possessions later. The Wildcats' offense was penalized seven times for 50 yards.
Rodriguez said he was "really disappointed" in the mental mistakes. Saturday's scrimmage was arranged so the Wildcats' first-team offense and first-team defense never faced each other. Arizona's top offense played against backup defenders, and the top blueshirts lined up against the second-string offense.
"Early, it was not very good," Rodriguez said. "The turnovers, the pre-snap penalties … we're not going to be good enough to beat ourselves. Those are things that are correctable."
Quarterback Matt Scott looked capable in Rodriguez's spread-option offense, completing 22 of 35 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns. Walk-on receiver Johnny Jackson had five catches for a team-best 90 yards. Morrison, doubling as a wide receiver, had five grabs for 75 yards and two scores. Tyler Slavin (5 catches, 51 yards) scored a team-best three touchdowns.
Arizona's running backs combined to post 152 yards on 43 carries. Tutogi led the way, gaining 41 yards on two carries. Daniel Jenkins gained 25 yards on five carries and scored a touchdown. Carey, Kylan Butler and Jared Baker also found the end zone.
"We've come a long way in terms of picking up the system, understanding the speed of it," said Jenkins, who was not expected to play because of a hamstring injury.
"As a team, we have a good idea of what to expect right now. Like Coach Rod tells us, there's a whole other level we can get to."
Defensively, Arizona was led by a trio of tacklers - safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant, linebacker Jake Fischer and safety Jared Tevis.
The defense played faster and hit harder Saturday than at any time during the spring, which coaches liked.
"I want to say 'whoa,' not 'sic 'em,' " Rodriguez said. "There are times when we've had to say 'sic 'em' this spring."
Arizona's progress has been palpable.
Forty days ago, the Wildcats reported to their first practice as newbies to Rodriguez's spread-option attack and 3-3-5 "odd-stack" defense. Fischer didn't know where to line up on defense, and Scott, a fourth-year player, often looked lost.
"Like chickens with our heads cut off," he said.
On Saturday, the Wildcats were running again - this time, into the end zone. For now, it's an improvement.
"Each day, we're growing," Carey said. "From (Day 1) to now, it's been a big jump."
• Arizona added another commit mere hours after Saturday's spring game.
Darius Allensworth, a defensive back from Menifee, Calif., announced via Twitter that he had verbally committed to the UA. Allensworth, who was at the spring game, gives Arizona four verbal commitments for 2013.
The 5-foot-11-inch, 183-pound Allensworth has yet to be rated by the Scout.com recruiting service. Arizona was his first - and, so far, only - offer, but Cal, Colorado and UCLA were also interested. As a junior at Heritage High School, Allensworth caught 30 passes for 387 yards and four touchdowns. He projects as a cornerback in college.
Safety HALL tears ACL
UA safety Adam Hall tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during Saturday's spring game, putting his football future in immediate and serious doubt.
Hall tweeted the news around 7:30 p.m., four hours after the 98-play scrimmage ended. He is expected to undergo surgery, and miss the next six months or longer.
"If you didn't hear, now you know," Hall tweeted. "Thank you for all the prayers."
Hall appeared to injure his knee when he de-cleated wide receiver Sean Willet while making a tackle midway through Saturday's scrimmage. Coach Rich Rodriguez reported that Hall "tweaked his knee a little bit," and that the Wildcats' training staff would re-evaluate him before Monday's final practice of spring.
Hall's tweet came hours later.
Saturday's injury is the second in as many years for Hall, a Palo Verde High School graduate and a projected starter. Hall played in just one game, the Wildcats' Oct. 8 loss against Oregon State, before experiencing knee soreness. He was shut down for the season.
Hall's injury is the first major offseason obstacle for the Wildcats, who lost five regulars to torn ACLs a year ago.