Arizona Wildcats football notes: Wildcats improve passing game
Tyler Besh/The Daily Wildcat UA freshman receiver Samajie Grant
Prior to Arizona’s game with UTSA, the question of whether or not the Wildcats could be more than just a running team had yet to be answered by senior quarterback B.J. Denker.
After tonight’s game, Denker appeared much more confident than in any of the previous games this year.
“It was a good day and I’m happy with my performance,” Denker said.
Previously, Denker opened the post-game press conference just by saying how happy he was to get the win.
Players had hinted during the week of practice leading up to the game that they would throw more against the Roadrunners and that the reason the passing game was lacking was because neither NAU nor UNLV had challenged them enough.
Saturday night Denker and the rest of the offense flexed the passing game by throwing for a season-high 158 yards on 21 attempts, which ties a season high for attempts.
The Wildcats opened the game with a heavy pass offense, throwing six times on an 11-play scoring drive. The 82-yard opening drive finished with a 13-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Samajie Grant.
“We were just going off what the defense was giving us,” Denker said. “We knew they were going to put a lot of guys in the box to stop [junior running back] Ka’Deem [Carey]. But we were just clicking.”
Denker finished the first quarter with command of the offense. He connected on 7-9 attempts for 88 passing yards, more yards than he had in the entire NAU and UNLV game.
As the game progressed, Arizona took more control, at one point taking a 31-point lead. With the game pretty much in hand, head coach Rich Rodriguez asked less of Denker and looked to just run out the clock.
To add to his successful day, Denker ran for a season-high 90 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns.
“We’re getting more confident in [Denker],” Rodriguez said. “[Tonight] was the sharpest he’s been all year.”
Turnovers are key
Arizona’s defense only forced two turnovers tonight, but scored 12 points off them.
Rodriguez has emphasized all fall the importance turnovers will play for the Wildcats’ team this year. Turnovers are explosive plays by the defense that put the offense back on the field.
Turnovers allow the offense to run more plays and continue to play at their fast tempo.
“[Turnovers] are going to be us,” Rodriguez said about his team’s identity. “For us to win some games in our league, we’re going to have to get some turnovers and offensively take care of the ball.”
So far Rodriguez has been very pleased with his defense’s ability to force turnovers. The second-year Arizona head coach quickly pointed out that it’s been a lot better at that this year than last year.
But it’s just as important for the offense to hold on to the ball — which Rodriguez was also happy with after tonight’s game.
The only turnover by Wildcats came late in the game on a run by sophomore running back Jared Baker.
Before heading to Seattle to open the conference schedule against Washington, the Wildcats will have a week off to rest and get healthy.
After tonight’s game Rodriguez called the non-conference schedule a success. The team has an identity but of course still needs to work on a executing and becoming more sharp.
The off-week schedule will for the most part be the same as a regular week, with the exception for the team two off days on Friday and Saturday.
The off week is much appreciated by the players, whose bodies are still getting used to the college football season grind.
“The rest is the biggest thing and the mental aspect,” Denker said. “It’s big for me and Ka’Deem to [have an extra week] to know what kind of defense they run and where to attack it.”
— Follow Luke Della @LukeDella