Sprung

April 23, 2006

(Stanford 10, at UA 6)
(at UA 14, Stanford 4)
(at UA 12, Stanford 3)
(Offense 29, Defense 20)


Ah, sweet spring. Flowers blooming, birds singing, and 300-pound men running into each other.

The annual University of Arizona Spring Football Game was this past weekend and excitement filled the air. There was advertising! I saw a TV commercial for the event last week with a bunch of highlights from the UCLA game and even a spiffy little jingle. Yeah, I'm gonna "Live It Live!" (By the way, that ad slogan sounds a lot better than it looks. In print it appears to be Doug E. Doug's motto.)

There was tailgating! Sure, the mall wasn't packed from Campbell to Cherry but there were many meat products being eaten and many chilled beverages being consumed. The area next to the Hall of Champions was a thriving athletic tent city for the day. The great depression of multiple losing seasons wasn't enough to shut this Wilburville down.

In some ways spring tailgating is even better than fall tailgating. You don't have to worry about the results of the actual game in the spring. You know if you're suffering from indigestion it's only because you didn't heed the warning to avoid the sun-baked egg salad.

It was such a beautiful weekend I decided to make it all Wildcats all the time by also taking in the baseball game Friday night. I've got the entire summer to get out of the doghouse. Let's go to the ballpark!

The game didn't start so well for the home team. Stanford led 4-0 after an inning and a half. But the Good Guys came back with a pair of runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings to take the lead. Brad Glenn had a mammoth home run and the final tally came across when Brad Boyer stole home.

There is nothing like the straight steal of home. It's easily my favorite play in all of sports, and I've now seen it live at Kindall Field for two consecutive years (Trevor Crowe pulled it off against Oregon State last season).

You can have your breakaway dunks or double-reverse-flee-flickers. I'll take sprinting from third base as soon as the pitcher starts his windup and racing the ball to the plate. The crowd freezes in confusion before realizing what's going on. Everyone leans forward to get a better view of the dive for the dish, the dispersing dust, and the umpire's decision. Make it and you're a Prince of Thieves. Get thrown out and you're Dances With Embarrassment (or worse if the batter doesn't know you're coming).

Safe! The crows erupts, the dugout empties to greet the dusty champion and everyone gets a cool sports memory.

Of course, Stanford responded with 5 unanswered runs and the Cats didn't score again. Dances With Oh Well.

The good news is my game turned out to be the only BatCat loss all weekend. You are correct: We won a Pac-9 series! No last place for us, thank you very much. We're technically tied for 6th at the moment and next weekend's games are against the Washington team just a game above us in the standings. Can our young thieves break this year's cycle and build on these wins to produce something resembling momentum? It would be a crime not to.

--

Back to Ye Olde Gridirone. The final attendance estimate was smaller than last year's estimate but it was still a nice crowd. Seating was only available on the east side of the stadium, but the covered "Priority" sections were available for the faint of skin.

Just like last year it wasn't a Red/Blue-type two-squad scrimmage. Coach Stoops likes to have his complete first teams battle against each other so it was the offense against the defense with a modified scoring system.

At the end of the day the scoreboard read Offense 29, Defense 20 but don't let the fake score fool you. Our defense is better than our offense. The running lanes were clogged, the coverage was tight and the tackling was sound.

Unfortunately for fans of the point-scoring guys, the best drive happened while a lot of us were still filing into our seats. Willie Tuitama connected with Syndric Steptoe for a couple hefty gains and Chris Henry ran it in from 9 yards out. Yes, I should have been on time, but I blame the tailgate's excellent meat products.

TuiThomas had a solid showing with Mike pulling in a tough catch on the sideline as well as breaking open for a 30-yard touchdown reception after Willie had escaped the pressure to buy time.

Another highlight was the start of the Kris Heavner Era, Jr. Kris was only in for a few plays but he had a nice completion to Anthony Johnson for a first down. It's pretty nice when your third string quarterback has a lot of game experience (including a field-storming victory) under his belt.

And that was about it for the O. Big plays were in short supply. The biggest moment for the D came on the final play when Antoine Cason picked off an Adam Austin pass and had a Deion Sanders-like 35-yard return (go ahead and tuck that ball away, #5).

So you can worry about a return to baseball-like scores for the Arizona offense, or you can dream about the potential of the now-experienced defense. There's a ton of talent all over the place and there's more on the way. Defense is what the Stoops Brothers do, and they just might do it up right this year.

As far as the final day of Spring Practice 2006, the brightest of the highlights came on special teams. Nick Folk appeared to be enjoying an easy afternoon with the occasional extra point when he was sent out to try a single field goal. No big deal, except the line of scrimmage was the 45 yard line. The holder set up on the other side of the 50 and everyone started murmuring and paying attention.

The kick was up…and it was very good. A 62-yard field goal! With room to spare even. It was pretty much a scrimmage-only trick shot, but it's nice to see that Nick Folk the Touchback Maker continues to be a very bad man.

Defense and good field goal kicking. For a fan base looking for a return to glory it gives us just enough to help make the summer pass a little bit happier.



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