FORT HUACHUCA — Here’s the usual caution that comes with a football scrimmage story: Don’t draw too many conclusions. The schemes are basic and, as much as anything, the coaches are looking to see what they have with their younger players.
The stats and some individual plays are interesting — and the good news is that the Arizona Wildcats put 75 plays on tape for later dissection in a rain-delayed scrimmage at Bujalski Field at the U.S. Army’s Fort Huachuca on Saturday night.
But beyond the play-by-play minutia, the takeaway from the scrimmage — at least for me — came in about a 10-second sound bite from coach Mike Stoops.
“If we have to throw it 60 times, then we’ll throw it 60 times,” he said.
“We have that type of quarterback and those types of receivers. That doesn’t bother me. It’s moving the chains and scoring points that what this game is ultimately about.”
While the offense scored only two touchdowns Saturday night — both on passes from Nick Foles — it did manage to mostly dink-and-dunk its way down the field.
“I like what our offense did,” Stoops said. “I thought they moved the ball very effectively and very efficiently.”
Stoops said this passing game can go vertical as well as horizontal, but the team didn’t have the vertical component Saturday night. The coaches held out star receiver Juron Criner (no need to risk injury), and complementary big-play threat Dan Buckner also did not play, one of several players nursing minor injuries.
Terrence Miller and David Roberts were two more receivers who sat out, while David Douglas saw just enough action to catch an early 14-yard touchdown pass from Foles.
The depth at receiver is such that the quarterbacks — Foles, Bryson Beirne, Daxx Garman and Tom Savage — still had enough quality targets at their disposal to complete 33 of 42 passes for 270 yards.
Arizona attempted 40.3 passes per game last season.
The Cats would be crazy not to throw it 50 times a game this year.
And if Stoops is on board for 60, offensive coordinator Seth Littrell should absolutely go for it.
This is the time to do it. Arizona has the personnel to just wing it and fling it. If that young, all-new starting offensive line can just pass block for few seconds, Foles will find someone open.
OK, so 60 is a number Stoops threw out there just to make a point. Arizona isn’t going to average that. The team that threw the ball the most in college football last season was East Carolina — 48.6 times per game. The Cats could/should challenge for the national lead in that category this season.
There is little reason not to.
*Quarterback Matt Scott did not play because he was a little “dinged up,” Stoops said. Bryson Beirne got the second-string reps, completing 12 of 15 passes for 81 yards, but he had to leave late in the scrimmage when he twisted his right leg while dropping back. The injury did not appear to be serious.
*Linebacker Derek Earls came up with the lone interception of the scrimmage, picking off a pass deflected by defensive back Shaquille Richardson.
*Stoops was displeased with the secondary, several times yelling at whoever was playing nickel back, which included Richardson, Lyle Brown and true freshman Tramayne Bondurant, who had a team-high eight tackles. “I thought our cover guys were better than that, but we weren’t today,” Stoops said. Arizona is basically down to its third-string nickel back — and how many teams really have a good third-string nickel back? Safety Adam Hall’s ACL injury meant Marquis Flowers had to move from nickel to safety, and now Jourdon Grandon is out for the rest of camp with a knee problem. Look for Richardson, a cornerback, to fill that role.
*Foles was 15 of 21 for 156 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. In addition to his touchdown to Douglas, he fired a 5-yard scoring pass to Austin Hill over the middle.
*Junior college transfer Jaimie Salazar hasn’t exactly come in and ripped the starting job away from incumbent Alex Zendejas. It was mixed bag Saturday night. Zendejas hit from 39 and 37 yards, but missed from 37. Salazar was good from 37 and wide left from 48.
*ArizonaWildcats.com has the unofficial stats from the scrimmage. Daniel Jenkins led the running game with six carries for 24 yards.
*The scrimmage concluded Arizona’s fourth trip to Fort Huachuca during fall camp. “This has been another very successful trip,” Stoops said. “This is a great place for us to work out. We have found us a great home here, and hopefully this will continue. I think our players have really enjoyed the experience again.”