Arizona football: It's likely to be pass or fail

Going by scrimmage, Wildcats will depend heavily on air attack
2011-08-14T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:44:07Z Arizona football: It's likely to be pass or failPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 14, 2011 12:00 am  • 

FORT HUACHUCA - Mike Stoops' offense, he says, will take whatever the defense gives it.

In Saturday's scrimmage, the defense - also belonging to Stoops - allowed less action on the ground than a group of 11 anteaters, swarming and stifling a running game that was without starter Keola Antolin.

Reading too much into any fall scrimmage is folly, but Stoops' reaction to his team's rushing performance might foretell the Arizona Wildcats' offensive attack this season.

It could pass. A lot.

"If we have to throw it 60 times, then we'll throw it 60 times," Stoops said under the lights in the team's last practice on the Army base. "We have that type of quarterback and those types of receivers. That doesn't bother me.

"Moving the chains and scoring points is ultimately what the game's about."

Quarterback Nick Foles completed 15-of-21 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns, a 14-yard strike to David Douglas and a 5-yarder to Austin Hill. He threw one interception - to linebacker Derek Earls off a Shaquille Richardson tip - in the 75-play scrimmage, which was delayed almost an hour by lightning.

Hill finished with three catches for 43 yards, while Gino Crump added five for 53.

Foles was sharp despite lacking at least four targets familiar to the few hundred fans watching.

Like Antolin, Juron Criner, David Roberts and Terrence Miller didn't participate because of what Stoops called precautionary reasons, while Dan Buckner was "a little dinged up."

Stoops said the plays, be they run or pass, are dependent on Foles making the proper decisions.

"We're gonna take what the defense gives you - that's the kind of offense we have," Stoops said. "Nick's good enough to understand what good plays are. We just got to make sure we don't run bad plays."

Run plays Saturday weren't very good.

Take away quarterback runs, and the UA gained 62 yards on 22 carries.

Backup tailback Daniel Jenkins managed 24 yards on six carries, while Kylan Butler and Ka'Deem Carey had 17 yards apiece on seven and six rushes, respectively.

Foles said the team needs balance.

"We're going to establish our running game," he said. "We have to … because that's going to open up the passing game.

"You have to have play-action pass. Running the ball in the red zone is key, too."

Stoops said the offensive line, the youngest unit on the team, has "gotten better" in recent days.

"We're starting to protect the quarterback better," he said. "The offense is starting to catch up to the defense, and I think that's what you saw."

Foles said gaining yards, whether by the run or the pass, starts with the line.

"You can't be a successful offense without a great offensive line that opens up holes for the run game and gives you time for the passing game," he said.

Foles pointed to Oregon, which struggled running the ball in the Bowl Championship Series title game, as proof a team must be balanced.

"There's nothing better as a quarterback (than) when you hand off the ball to a running back and the offensive line opens up a hole, that's huge," he said. "That's huge for the O-line's confidence."

Douglas agreed, saying the blockers and running backs "are getting better every day."

Linebacker Paul Vassallo said the offensive line has "been giving us fits" at times, but that his unit took pride in stopping the run Saturday.

"As a front-seven defender, that's the most pride-filled thing," he said. "Trying to hold people to under 3 yards.

"That's making plays and hitting people in the mouth. And that's what we're trying to do right now."

Stoops saved his barbs for the team's pass coverage, which also allowed Bryson Beirne to complete 12 of 15 passes for 81 yards.

"I thought our cover guys were better than that," Stoops said, "but they weren't today."

If the Wildcats run across a team having a poor pass-coverage day this season, expect them to throw the ball a lot.

Maybe even 60 times.

"Whatever it takes to win, that's good - I love throwing the ball," Foles said. "But also being smart, I also know we have to be able to run."

TRAINING CAMP INSIDER

Day 9, at Fort Huachuca

• Highlights: The Arizona Wildcats started Saturday with a demonstration by a working dog of the 18th Military Police Detachment. Freshman Dame Ndiaye wore a padded suit and ran before a working dog named Nol tackled him. The Wildcats were supposed to scrimmage at 4:30 p.m., but started about an hour later because of lightning. Once on the field, the offense generated most of the fireworks. Nick Foles completed 15 of 21 passes for 156 yards with a depleted receiving corps. One of the most exciting moments came later in practice, when sophomore defensive back Jared Tevis hammered former Canyon del Oro High School teammate Ka'Deem Carey, the ball-carrier.

• Weather: Storms cooled a 90-degree day down to the mid-70s.

• Injury report: Four of the UA's most recognizable wide receivers sat out - Juron Criner, David Roberts, Terrence Miller and Dan Buckner, mostly for precautionary reasons. Starting running back Keola Antolin sat for precautionary reasons. Quarterback Bryson Beirne appeared to injure his knee during practice; Matt Scott didn't play and was described by Stoops as "dinged up." Nickel back Jourdon Grandon is out for three weeks with a sprained meniscus. Safety Adam Hall, linebacker Jake Fischer, running back Greg Nwoko and defensive tackle Willie Mobley are all out indefinitely as they recover from offseason knee surgeries. UA coach Mike Stoops said he hopes to have a full roster of participating players - short of the surgery recovery guys - next week.

• Up next: The Wildcats will participate in the Leadership Reaction Course at 7:45 a.m. today before returning to Tucson.

• He said it: "We found us a great home here. Hopefully this will continue. I think our players have really enjoyed the experience." - Stoops, on the Fort Huachuca trip

Patrick Finley

Coming Aug. 28

The Star's 2011 college football preview section.

• Season opener: Sept. 3 vs. NAU

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