Positive signs in scrimmage

When watching a team scrimmage, especially a team you root for, it is tough to decide who to root for. Do you want the offense to do well at the expense of the defense? Or do you want the defense to dominate? On Saturday night the fans got to watch a little of both. The offense played well, but the defense did not break very often.

It was a case of bend but not breaking for the defense. The offense drove for six scores, but four of those were field goals. The first defense surrendered three field goals, but did not give up a touch down drive.

"I am really happy about a lot of things," said Wildcat coach Mike Stoops. "We look like a more explosive football team than a year ago."

That explosiveness was never more evident than it was on the final play of the game. True freshman Willie Tuitama hit a streaking Bobby McCoy on a 75-yard touchdown. McCoy got behind walk-on Max Johnson and Tuitama fired a bullet to McCoy who strolled into the endzone.

"It really was a kind of neat way to end practice on a good note," Tuitama said.

All told Tuitama was 1-5 for 75 yards. He threw a pick to John McKinney.

Richard Kovalcheck led the first offense to three field goals against the first defense. He got the Cats on the board on his first drive. The offense got down to the defense's 31 but a third down conversion came up a yard short and the team settled for a 46-yarder from Nick Folk to cap the 11 play drive.

Kovalcheck's next drive was not as good or as long. He threw an interception to Darrell Brooks on first down.

The team went right back to Kovalcheck and he led them on another long drive. This time the offense moved down the field in 13 plays. A quarterback sack on third and six halted the offense's progress. Folk booted his second field goal, this time a 32-yard kick.

Kovalcheck's final scoring drive came on his last snaps of the night. This time he guided the offense on a 10-play drive. Kovalcheck came close to putting the offense inside the redzone, but his long pass to Mike Jefferson was caught out of bounds and the Cats were forced to let Folk nail one from 35 yards.

For the night Kovalcheck was 13-21 for 116 yards and the pick.

"We moved the ball down the field but we didn't punch it in," Kovalcheck said.

Adam Austin was solid as well. He didn't score on his first three series, but guided the offense to a pair of scores on his final two trips. Austin used a diving catch by Michael Thomas to get inside the 10, but two incompletions and a quarterback sack forced the offense to settle for a chip shot field goal from Jason Bondzio.

Austin was sharp the final drive, finding B.J. Vickers on back-to-back catches, including a 27 yarder. Austin capped the drive with his feet. On third and goal from the six he spotted a hole in the defense and sprinted to the endzone. Two linebackers were there waiting for him, but in the scrimmage there is not contact and he was awarded the touchdown. Whether or not he would have scored is up for debate since the defenders could not hit the scrambling passer.

Austin was a solid 12-21 for 145 yards.

With Mike Bell out the other Wildcat runners got the bulk of the carries. Xavier Smith had the most yards rushing, picking up 31 yards on seven carries. Gilbert Harris had the most carries with 29 yards on 11 rushes.

B.J. Vickers led all receivers with five catches for 55 yards. All told 10 Wildcat receivers had receptions.

The defense had two picks and seven sacks. Jonathan Turner led the defense with a pair of sacks.

Folk made all three of his kicks in the scrimmage and showed that he is making the strides to be a steady performer for the Cats this season. Before the start of the scrimmage, with a live rush, the junior made five of six kicks. He was good from 35, 37, 41, 46 and 54. His only miss came from 44 yards.

Danny Baugher was also very solid. His first kick was a 57-yarder that caught returner Thomas by surprise. The freshman muffed the punt, which was recovered by Dominic Patrick. Baugher's next punt was not nearly as strong, but he got the roll and the ball rolled 50 yards. His final two kicks were for 45 and 50 yards.

He finished with an average of 50.5 yards.

Stoops was pleased with the kickers.

"It has a chance to be a strength of our team," the coach said. "They could be two of the premier kickers in out conference."


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