Spring Fling

It was the biggest crowd for a spring scrimmage in school history. A record number 11,800 showed up, too bad all of them didn't stay for the whole game. Strange temperature swings, mixed with a sudden down poor, sent many of the fans home early. For those who left, they missed a lot of action as the offense saved their best for last.

Officially the final score was 47-26 in favor of the offense, using a system that awarded the offense for both actual scores as well as first downs. The defense was given points for defensive stops and turnovers.

In a spring full of new faces and unlikely heroes, it was a redshirt freshman who stole the show. Gerold Rodriguez had two of the offense's three touchdowns.

Early on the defense had that edge. They held the offense without a touchdown for the first half, while picking off three passes.

Adam Austin, the talk of camp, struggled early on. He was just five for his first 13, missing receivers and throwing an interception to linebacker Randy Sims. Of those five completions, just one went for more than 10 yards.

The former walk-on junior on his fourth possession. Austin found Mike Jefferson for 21 yards. Then two plays later connected with Syndric Steptoe for a 27-yard gain. The offense drove inside the 10 but could not score and settled for a 21-yard Nick Folk field goal.

Unofficially he was 27-50 on the day for 370 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions.

Two possessions later Austin had the team moving again. A nice 12-yard run by Chris Henry got things started . Austin found Ryan Eidson twice for gains of 13 and 11 before the drive stalled. This time the Folk connected on a 47-yard field goal.

The defense was mostly solid over the first 60:00 (each half had a running clock of an hour). They limited the offense to three three-and-outs, a fumble recovery and the three picks. In addition to Sims' interception on the opening drive, Lamon Means and Antoine Cason also snagged Austin passes.

"We have to be more aggressive fighting for the ball," offensive coordinator Mike Canales admitted.

Jason Parker recovered a Mike Bells fumble for the defense, although replays indicated that the ball had gone out of bounds before the defense scooped it up.

The offense came out and drove the ball well to open the second half. Bell opened the possession with a 20-yard gain, and Anthony Johnson caught a 15 yarder. Again the defense stiffened and this time redshirt freshman Jason Bondzio missed a 33-yard field goal attempt.

Two possessions later the offense finally cracked the goal line. Austin was sharp on the drive. He completed 3-of-4 passes, although that final completion, a 33-yard score, was a bit of a gift. Austin looked for tight end Brandyn McCall over the middle, but the JUCO transfer tipped the ball up in the air, and defensive back Michael Klyce got a hand on the ball but it continued to flutter. With a pair of defensive backs descending on the ball, Rodriguez settled under the ball and raced the rest of the way for the score.

The offense got on the board the very next possession. Mike Bell started things off by breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage and then racing 50-yards before getting brought down from behind by Means. The offense then went to Henry and Bell on back-to-back carries and found themselves facing a third and eight. On third down they went back to the ground and Henry gained just a pair of yards, but a facemask penalty put them half the distance at the four. On the next play Austin flicked a misdirection pitch to Henry who scored thanks to a great block from wide receiver Anthony Johnson, who leveled an unsuspecting Marcus Hollingsworth.

The running game was a mixed bag. They'd rattle off a big run, then get stuffed at the line two or three straight runs. Bell had 105 yards on nine carries to lead the offense. Henry had just 21 yard on 15 carries, failing to show the breakaway ability that had made him one of the big surprises in camp.

The final score for the offense was another one of beauty. Walk-on Eric Sheehan got behind his defender and reeled in a 48-yard gain. Two plays later Austin looked for Rodriguez in the corner and despite tough coverage, the freshman was able to get a foot down and hang onto the pass for a 17-yard score.

The scrimmage ended on the next series. Patrick picked off an Austin pass and Mike Stoops ended the scrimmage with a little over 4:00 left to play.

NOTES
*In a move that was not much of a surprise, Adam Austin took every snap.

*A host of players sat out the game with injuries. Among those not playing were OL Eddie Rollman, TE Ryan Kilpatrick, OL Joe Barresi, FB Jimmy Caldwell, WR/DB B.J. Dennard, RB Gilbert Harris, DT Paul Phillip, DB Michael Johnson, DB Darrell Brooks, LB Sean Jones, OL Phillip Brown and LB Spencer Larsen.

*The game was broadcast live on local radio as well as internet streaming.

*For the first time ever the university opened up the middle sections of seats. In years past only the lower level (student section) was open.

*The Arizona athletic department estimated the crowd at 11,800. Last year the crowd was listed at 5,500. Both are significantly better than the 450 or so who showed up in 2003.


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