For most of the week, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez wasn’t all that happy with what he was seeing at practice.
“Too much to list,” he said earlier in the week when asked to be specific. It just wasn’t right, he said. One day, he cited a lack of rain as the best thing that happened on the day since it would have created a mess at practice.
And right now, there’s plenty to clean up — at least on defense — after the team’s first scrimmage Saturday night at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, where UA has been since Wednesday.
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“We have expectations for everybody to play at a certain level of toughness and intensity and hopefully execution, as well,” Rodriguez, in his first year at Arizona, told reporters following the scrimmage. “If you’re out there, the expectation is to play at a certain level. The physicalness wasn’t there today. As a coaching staff, we need to make sure the players understand our expectations.”
In other words, go hard or go home. Or, at the very least, get better in a hurry.
That’s what the defense will have to do, as it didn’t appear that much progress had been made from last year, when the Wildcats had one of the worst defenses in Division I, giving up more than 460 yards a game.
The UA offense racked up 552 total yards Saturday night, including 438 yards in the air. There were eight touchdown drives in the nearly 90-play scrimmage.
“We had a lot of mental mistakes,” junior linebacker Jake Fischer said. “We had them on third-and-long and we gave up a long pass or they broke through with a run. We’ll watch the film and work to correct our mistakes.”
The Wildcats have three weeks to get things worked out, as they host Toledo in the season opener at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 1. And every day for the rest of the season will be a work in progress.
That’ll be the case on offense, too, although it seems that some of the work has already been done based on the numbers in the scrimmage.
Starting quarterback Matt Scott, who UA will be leaning on heavily this season to run the offense, went 16 for 18 for 193 yards. His backup, junior-college transfer B.J. Denker, went 12 for 17 for 154 yards.
Together, they connected on their first 14 passes. More than 10 receivers were used, with Terrence Miller leading the way with six catches for 91 yards.
“We have (receivers) who can run and catch the ball, catch anything that comes their way,” Scott told reporters. “I have no problem getting the ball out there, and I trust them with every throw.”
He might have to just do that often, as the defense looks like it needs a lot of work — at least based on the scrimmage, although Scott prefaced the observations with a bit of context.
“We’ve had a couple of bad days as an offense (recently),” Scott said. “It’s back and forth. Tonight’s scrimmage isn’t saying much with how the defense performed.”
Arizona will return to Tucson on Monday after going through leadership courses at Fort Huachuca on Sunday.