Arizona football

PHOENIX - For a few hours Friday night, it felt like football season.

The weather was crisp, coaches wore game attire, players were in uniform and the stadium lights were bright.

Don't tell the Arizona Wildcats the real football season is still five months away.

The Wildcats held an hour-plus scrimmage at Phoenix College in front of several hundred fans and tried to replicate game day as closely as possible.

"The weather was beautiful, we had a nice crowd - it was like 'Friday Night Lights,' " coach Rich Rodriguez said. "I told them before, it's just like high school; Friday night, beautiful day, the game uniforms on and all that.

"I'm glad we did it and we'll keep doing it as long as they keep having us."

The Wildcats went through their full pregame routine and then ran about 60 plays in front of the fans.

The highlights included:

• Four touchdown passes from quarterback B.J. Denker to four different receivers.

• A strong performance from wide receiver-turned-cornerback Richard Morrison, who picked off Denker and also had one of the harder hits in the game against receiver Austin Hill.

• A 25-yard quarterback scramble for a touchdown by Javelle Allen, in which he pulled off a nifty move in open space to reach the end zone.

• A one-point "win" for the defense, which it earned by stopping the offense on the final play of the scrimmage, despite being down several points.

"I saw a few flashes," Rodriguez said. "We need more of this; more of the game environment for our younger guys, especially our quarterbacks."

But like any coach with months to improve before the season, Rodriguez still saw plenty he didn't like.

"I was disappointed overall offensively that the tempo wasn't as good as it should be," Rodriguez said. "I would have liked to have seen more enthusiasm. I think some of those guys are so young and tight and afraid to screw up, they didn't have as much energy as I would have liked."

In fairness, Friday night's lineups likely won't resemble the starters for the Aug. 30 opener against NAU. Several key players were out; some with injuries, others just for rest.

All-America running back Ka'Deem Carey played one series and had just one carry for 12 yards. Linebacker Jake Fischer suited up, but didn't play.

"We know what those guys can do," Rodriguez said.

Defensive regulars Marquis Flowers, Jonathan McKnight, Shaquille Richardson, C.J. Dozier, Jourdon Grandon and Dan Pettinato were all sidelined and didn't participate.

The players who did get a chance wanted to make the best of it. And Morrison is the leader of that group right now.

He wrestled with Hill in the end zone on Denker's pass and yanked it away for an interception. Rodriguez said the move to cornerback for the Texan has been "a good one."

"I'm having a lot of fun out there," Morrison said. "I'm not thinking as much and I'm just trying to play. When I think, I'm not as good. Today, I was just playing."

Hill joked that he didn't remember Morrison's big plays.

"I put it out of my brain," Hill said, smiling.

Denker finished with 176 passing yards on top of his four touchdowns.

Allen had 107 total yards of offense (57 rushing, 50 passing) and a touchdown pass to Trevor Ermisch in addition to his rushing score.

The Wildcats will return to practice Monday and have four more sessions before the April 13 spring game at Kindall/Sancet Stadium.

But it will be hard to duplicate the atmosphere from Friday night's scrimmage.

"This was awesome," Denker said. "The crowd was huge, especially for it being in the Phoenix area. I haven't played under the lights in a while.

"This was really fun, just coming out here and being enthusiastic."

Key dates

• April 13: 1 p.m., spring game at Kindall/Sancet Stadium

• Aug. 30: Time TBA vs. NAU at Arizona Stadium

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk