Denker's time to step up for Arizona Wildcats
With all eyes on Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey this weekend, it’ll be up to senior quarterback B.J. Denker to step out of the shadows.
The Wildcats are going to need more than a personal best from the quarterback if they hope to beat a Washington team that will be distracted on defense with stopping Arizona’s run game.
“If [Washington] is smart they would [focus on stopping the run],” Denker said. “If they want to try and win the football game, they will.”
Saturday’s game will be all about the tempo and who’s controlling it. The Huskies and Wildcats have similar offenses. Carey and UW running back Bishop Sankey are so similar that they are almost twins and currently are two of the nation’s top backs. Both offenses run a fast pace spread. Who runs the most plays in the end will control the tempo and win the game.
But unlike the Wildcats, the root of Washington’s offense isn’t its running back, but instead quarterback Keith Price.
The key to stopping Washington’s offense?
“Getting to Keith Price,” Arizona sophomore linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson said. “Making him force turnovers and not scramble out of the pocket.”
The Huskies and Wildcats have identical offenses but apparently completely different defensive plans.
“We should expect them [to focus on Carey],” Rodriguez said about Washington’s defense. “It wouldn’t be the first time this season we’ve seen a full commitment to that. I would expect to see the same thing quite a bit on Saturday.”
If for some reason the Huskies are confident enough to not fully commit to stopping Carey in the first half, they will in the second half, when the score is tight.
Once Washington’s commitment to stopping Carey and the running game has been established, Denker needs to become more of an elite passer than a pedestrian one.
In Washington’s last game in week three, a victory over UTSA, Denker did exactly that.
“We were just going off what the defense was giving us,” Denker said after the win. “We knew they were going to put a lot in the box to stop Ka’Deem, and our offense was just clicking.”
Denker finished the first quarter of that game with 88 passing yards and one touchdown. Once the Wildcats began to pull away and the victory was more obvious, running the clock out became more of a priority than going off what the defense gave them.
Arizona has gotten by so far with its strong ground attack, averaging the fifth most rushing yards per game in the nation at 322.3.
But the Wildcats can’t expect to do that or to be able to take their foot off the gas against a defense that through the past three games hasn’t given up more than 171 rushing yards a game.
If they limit themselves to just running the ball, there will be many punts and wasted possessions, delivering the ball and tempo into the hands of Washington.
So the pressure is on Denker to execute and exploit the matchups. If he can take his game to uncharted personal heights, not only will the Wildcats escape Seattle with a win, but they will also be able to expect future opponents to commit less on Carey.
“We’re seeing more and more teams play us in a one-on-one, press, man coverage out on the perimeter and [test us to] see if we can win some of those battles,” Rodriguez said. “We got to win some of those to have a chance.”
— Follow Luke Della @LukeDella