Arizona’s 15th preseason practice saw it run about 100 plays in a “mock game” held inside the football stadium on Saturday night, a scrimmage that coach Jedd Fisch said marked the end of training camp. The Wildcats will “clean up some things from the film” in a workout Sunday evening, but beginning Tuesday the focus will turn toward game planning for the Sept. 3 opener at San Diego State.
The mock game saw the first-team offense matched up against the second-team defense, and vice versa, allowing both first units to get 42 snaps.
With that in mind, sophomore Jayden de Laura unofficially threw for 252 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-21 passing, while true freshman Noah Fifita was 6 of 11 for 53 yards and junior Jordan McCloud was 3 of 7 for 30 yards.
de Laura’s TD pass was to sophomore Dorian Singer, an 11-yard catch in the corner of the end zone, and he also had a 17-yard run on a scramble and ran it in on a 2-point play.
“If I was to give it a grade, a letter grade, maybe a B, B-minus,” de Laura said. “I missed a couple of throws. First play could have been an 80-yard touchdown.”
Fisch said de Laura played really well, praising his decision-making and how he commanded the huddle.
“Now he’s got 13 days to be able to get himself in a position to own the offense even better,” Fisch said.
All three of Arizona’s running back newcomers looked solid, with Florida State transfer DJ Williams going for 26 yards on eight carries, freshman Jonah Coleman gaining 84 all-purpose yards on 10 touches and freshman Rayshon ‘Speedy’ Luke breaking off a 70-yard TD run on his first touch.
Freshman Tetairoa McMillan led all receivers with 78 yards on four catches, while Singer and fellow sophomore Anthony Simpson each had four receptions.
The defense recorded six sacks, including two by freshman defensive end Russell Davis II, but did not get a takeaway. Defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen said his unit looked “cleaner,” particularly in the pass rush, but that tackling remained an issue.
“I thought we did some good things,” Nansen said.
de Laura’s practice absence, explained
Arizona’s QB1 missed Wednesday’s practice, and the team provided no information on his absence. Fisch called it “personal reasons” after the scrimmage, but de Laura solved the mystery.
Bad Chiptole the evening before, he said, which caused him to feel ill. Pepto didn’t work, so after coming to the football facility he said the coaches told him to go back home.
When de Laura returned to practice on Thursday he looked none the worse for wear, continuing a run of solid workouts dating back to a few days before the first scrimmage. Now he’s ready to set his sights on actual games.
“I kind of made it my goal in fall camp to buckle down and get comfortable in everything,” he said. “So now I need to be even more focused.”
T-Mac getting up to speed in battle with C-Ro
The best one-on-one matchup all camp has been between McMillan and junior cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace, a preseason Pac-12 all-conference honorable mention selection whom McMillan says is the best corner in the conference.
Not surprisingly, C-Ro dominated his younger counterpart early on in camp—“the first five days of training camp he held me to zero catches, so that just speaks for itself,” McMillan said—but in the past week or so the highly touted freshman has started holding his own.
Part of that has come from becoming better with his speed. He said most of the top corners in the Pac-12 run between 19 and 21 miles per hour, while he came to the UA in January running 16 mph. Now he’s at 18-19.
And that’s with adding 15 pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame, now weighing in at around 200.
“I feel a lot lighter even though I’m heavier, which is weird,” he said.
Wide receiver Jacob Cowing, who didn’t practice this past week after playing in the first scrimmage, was dressed out but did not play. Fisch said he expects the UTEP transfer, who should be Arizona’s starting slot wideout, to return to full practice on Tuesday.
Fisch also expects projected defensive starters Treydan Stukes and Tia Savea to be ready for the season opener even though neither has practiced in a while. Stukes, a corner, is dealing with a right leg issue and still had a sleeve on it Saturday, while defensive lineman Savea was wearing sunglasses on the sideline even though the scrimmage happened in the evening.
Others who didn’t dress for the scrimmage include defensive backs Isaiah Mays and DJ Warnell, and defensive lineman Isaiah Johnson, while wide receiver AJ Jones wore a red jersey like the quarterbacks and had two catches for 16 yards.
Not at the scrimmage were running back Jalen John and defensive lineman Eddie Siaumau-Sanitoa, neither of whom have been seen at practice in quite some time.