Arizona Wildcats vs. NAU football notes: Denker gets starting nod
Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez kept to his word and didn’t announce a starter at quarterback until the first play from scrimmage Friday night. But when senior B.J. Denker ran out onto the field it came as no surprise, even to Denker who was never actually told he was starter.
“I guess it was basically assumed, but I never had a conversation with any offensive coaches,” Denker said. “When it was the first play of the game, I ran out onto the field and no one stopped me. So I assumed I was the starter.”
Denker rightly assumed to be the starter as he is the veteran of the quarterbacks and the only one on roster with a start under his belt. Not to mention, Denker also was one of the few quarterbacks who managed to stay healthy during spring and fall camp.
The quick-footed southpaw quarterback set the tone early with an opening drive touchdown. A drive that lasted three minutes and 54 seconds saw Denker throw for 42 and rush for 23 yards on 10 plays. He finished the drive off with an 11-yard pass to a wide-open Daniel Jenkins.
Denker entered halftime with 80 yards passing by completing seven of his nine first half pass attempts to go along with the one touchdown.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Rodriguez offense without a running quarterback, and Denker showed off his wheels by rushing for 33 yards on nine attempts in first half.
“I thought [Denker] was solid,” Rodriguez said confidently. “In our system the quarterback has to make a lot of decisions and I thought he made good ones. [He] did a nice job running the offense.”
Denker would only have four pass attempts in the second half, completing two of them. His feet were more effective, though, as he would rush for 38 yards in the second half.
“Obviously [my] stats weren’t off the chart, but we got the win,” Denker said. “There were a couple throws I should have made. That’s me being a little nervous, but that not going to happen again. We’re going to get in the film room and practice field and fix that.”
With five minutes and 43 seconds left in the game and a 28-0 lead, Rodriguez showed who was Denker’s strongest competition this fall as he would pull Denker for redshirt freshman Javelle Allen.
Allen’s impact was quick. On his third play of the game, Allen read the defense and found a hole big enough to run 61-yards for a touchdown in the north end zone.
Friday was the first collegiate start for many Arizona freshmen.
Linebacker Scooby Wright, wide receiver Nate Phillips and cornerback Devin Holiday were some of the most notable freshman to start Friday night.
“I’m sure [the freshman] were nervous,” Rodriguez said. “It was a great atmosphere. I know they’re happy to get a win and get their first college start.”
Wright, who earned a start after a strong fall camp, finished Friday’s game with six tackles and one tackle for a loss.
Holiday only had two tackles Friday night, but the freshman made an impact in the second half with a interception that he returned back 10 yards to the Lumberjacks 35 yard line.
“[Wright] plays hard,” senior linebacker Jake Fischer said. “He’ll be a All-Pac-12 linebacker someday.”
No Ka’Deem, no problem
Rodriguez suspended his All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey for Friday night’s game because of his legal troubles this offseason. However, Rodriguez did make sure to say after the game that the junior has done everything they have asked of him since the fall.
Senior running back Daniel Jenkins, who was Carey’s backup last season, filled in nicely Friday.
Jenkins scored two touchdowns, one receiving and one running, and ran the ball for 139 yards on just 12 attempts. Jenkins’ big play came with five minutes and 46 seconds in the second quarter when he ran 91-yards for a touchdown.
“In warm ups I sprinted out the tunnel and ran to midfield, I was excited,” Jenkins said. “As for Ka’Deem, I’ll be happy to have him back and I think we’ll both do a great job and help the team win.”
-Follow Luke Della @LukeDellaDW