Photos by Melissa Tussing.
Although it was not the Ohio State game and the Wildcats were playing themselves, Saturday’s annual spring football game featured plenty of intensity and enthusiasm from players and fans. A number of plays excited the crowd of 3,500, including a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from quarterback C.J. Bachér to Sidney Stewart and several hard hits by senior cornerback Deante Battle.
The Wildcats were divided into two teams. The Purple Team was composed mainly of first-string players while their backups played for the White Team. The teams were tied at 14 points each at the end of four quarters, leading to a field goal kick-off to decide the game in overtime. Junior Amado Villarreal converted on the 35-yard attempt, giving the win to the Purple Team, 17-14.
The final result was trivial in a game that was about the Wildcats playing in front of their fans and honing their skills for the upcoming season.
“Any time you actually have people in the stands and have to compete it’s a lot more intense,” junior cornerback David Oredugba said.
An impressive defense made four sacks and eight pass deflections. One standout play was a second quarter interception of a Bachér pass which was returned for a touchdown by safety Akeem Hunter.
“The ball came out wrong … just … bad play,” Bachér said.
Despite the strong defensive showing, team members agree that there is a lot to work on in order before they are ready to open at home against Northeastern University on September 1. The offense struggled to find a rhythm, said quarterback C.J. Bachér.
“We really didn’t execute the way we wanted to and we shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers, so we’re disappointed in that aspect. But we’re going to watch the film, get better, and try to improve over the summer,” Bachér said.
The Wildcats must also focus on coming together as a team, an event which traditionally takes place during summer training camp at Camp Kenosha in Wisconsin, said Oredugba.
“A lot of it is based on camaraderie, especially during the summer when we get together and we bond,” said wide receiver Sidney Stewart, who had 4 receptions for 41 yards and one touchdown.
Stewart picked up the slack from fellow wide receiver Andrew Brewer, who was injured on the opening drive of the game with a stinger after making a circus catch in the back of the end zone. In the game, quarterbacks were not allowed to be tackled but other players had no such protection, leading to hits such as one put on wide receiver Eric Peterman by Deante Battle.
“I didn’t hold back when I hit him, but after, when he is laying down, you don’t want him to be hurt,” Battle said.
The Wildcats have big expectations for the season, if unlike last year, they can stay injury-free.
“Like Coach [Pat Fitzgerald] says, we want to win a Rose Bowl and we think we have the team to do it,” Bachér said.