Defense Outshines Offense in Spring Game

The Wildcat defense was led by SS <b>Lamon Means</b>, LB <b>Kirk Johnson</b>, and FS <b>Tony Wingate</b>, over the UA offense on a windy afternoon in Arizona Stadium. The defense recorded eight tackles for loss, seven passes broken up, five sacks, and three interceptions to squeek out the win over the offense 26-20. That is not to say the offense was without fireworks, as QB's <b>Richard Kovalcheck</b> and <b>Ryan O'Hara</b> both had touchdown tosses to WR <b>Michael Jefferson</b>.

Kris Heavner was the starter for the scrimmage, but his play was sluggish at times. He finished the game going 12-25 on 101 yards passing and two interceptions. His back-ups proved to have better luck on the day. Ryan O'Hara came in with the second team and ended up 6-9 with 100 yards passing and a touchdown. Richard Kovalcheck may have been the most impressive signal caller today even though he didn't get as many reps. He threw three times and completed all three for 60 yards and one touchdown. One strike was a beautiful roll-out pass hitting Jefferson in stride for a 39 yard TD pass. Michael also caught a 71-yarder from O'Hara as he proved to be the star of the outing catching only three passes, but making them good for 126 yards.

Ryan felt good about his play.

"I feel everyday is my opportunity," explained O'Hara. "Ever since I was not named the starting quarterback it has burned inside me. I want to do everything I can but at the same time I don't want to press too hard. You can't put pressure on yourself to make plays, you have to let it happen. I feel I came here clear-headed today, my Dad said to get a good night's sleep and be wide-eyed and I saw the defense and I made the plays."

He went on about the play of his top receiver of the day.

"When the lights come on, Jefferson knows how to make plays."

The passing game wasn't the only thing that clicked for the UA offense today, Mike Bell showed some flashes of brilliance on the ground. Bell had 12 rushes for 64 yards with a long of 38 yards that actually took him down to the one yard line. It was all for not though, as the next play Lamon Means nailed Gilbert Harris for a two yard loss and the offense ended up going three-and-out and attempting a 29 yard field goal. The attempt was missed wide right by Adam Goldstein.

The kicking game, however, did prove itself capable, as Nicholas Folk knocked home both of his attempts of 29 yards and 51 yards. The 51-yarder even had room to spare. After his first 29 yard attempt the crowd may have been as loud as it got all afternoon. Roaring cheers were abroad as the signs of an anemic kicking game of last season may be resurrected for this Fall.

The Wildcats seem to have also found themselves the most reliable tight end to come through the program in some time with Steve Fleing. Steve had four ctahces for 31 yards on the day and was hit immediately after every single one of them but held on.

Coach Mike Stoops spoke on Felimg's abilities.

"Steve Fleming is a guy we need to get the ball too."

Head Coach Stoops explained his feelings on today's showing overall.

"It was pretty good, pretty generic. Most Spring Games are pretty boring. You don't show too much. We have a ways to go in putting in our system. I felt we got better throughout the spring.

"70-75 percent of offense and defense, we still have to polish up a lot. We showed great signs of improvement. We played pretty well defensively. I don't know if we have a bunch of superstars. I think as a group they adapted to the system well throughout the Spring and have gotten better. They seem to be getting more comfortable with our system."

For the defense, Lamon Means and Tony Wingate were without a doubt the stars of the afternoon. Lamon had several bone-crushing hits that laid opposing players flat-out. While Wingate had an interception, one sack, one tackle for a loss, and seven tackles overall.

Defensive Coordinator Mark Stoops commented on his defense.

"We have them believing in themselves and playing hard and playing a little more confidently. That is what we have to continue to push in the off-season, you play more confidently when you are prepared. We need to get in beter shape, stronger and faster through the summer. The spring has been great. The guys have had a great attitude, they have bought into our system. They see the results when we execute things right and we get lined up properly.

"We are not giving up the big plays, we are keeping things in front of us and we are not giving up the touchdowns. We are executing and making plays when you have the opportunity."

He is pleased with the progress of Means.

"He is getting better. He is understanding we are a little more precise than the things he has been asked to do before. He has come a long way with that. He needs more and more playing time."

Darrell Brooks had one of the interceptions for the defense on the day, and he thinks the defense has come a long way.

"We have made gigantic strides. We have covered a lot of ground from the first few days of the Spring. Guys are not thinking anymore, we are just reacting and playing defense.

"If we are one cohesive unit, nobody can stop us. We need to play as a team and if we do nobody is going to be able to stop us."

Now that the Cats are going into the long summer stretch, Mike Stoops spoke about what is going to happen.

"We have a long way to go phsycially and in speed as a football team. We want to get bigger, stronger, and faster. There is a big period between now and when we start in August. The next four months, for any success this team can have, it is paramount we have a great summer and that wills start in a couple of days. We have a lot to do.

"I think this will be a much different football team when we come back in August. We are getting better everyday. I think the kids are getting more confident with their teammates, with their coaches, and the system. It takes time to get comfortable. We are not playing as fast as we would like as a football team. We have to get more explosive and quicker as an all-around football team. If we can do some things over the next four months I think we can be a faster team when we come back in the Fall."

Attendance: 5,500

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