BERKELEY, Calif. — The UA’s report card for its 33-28 win at Cal.
Quarterbacks: B+: A banged up B.J. Denker keeps on rolling. The quarterback and coach Rich Rodriguez both said Denker has been limited by some minor bumps and bruises recently and didn’t do much in practice last week. But the senior still managed to go 24 for 38 through the air for 261 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, he rushed for 44 yards on 15 carries and reached the end zone three times. Denker didn’t turn the ball over, which was critically important in a road game. He made a couple of reads he’d like to have back, but is clearly improving each week.
Running backs: B+: It wasn’t always easy for Ka’Deem Carey on Saturday, but the junior still had a productive game. Carey finished with 152 yards on 32 carries. Cal was determined to stop him and did a pretty decent job on him, but the Canyon del Oro High School product still managed to get his yards. Carey’s most important run was a 17-yard gain on Arizona’s final drive, which iced the game. Carey was icing his ankle after the game and clearly took some licks in the win, but he continues to run tough and make defenses scheme against him.
Wide receivers: B: It was an above-average day for Arizona’s receivers, but nothing out of the ordinary. True freshmen Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips were solid once again and have proven to be reliable targets for quarterback B.J. Denker. Grant had a career-high nine catches and Phillips caught a touchdown pass for the fourth straight game. Senior Terrence Miller had a huge play when he went 60 yards on a screen pass on third down. He finished with five catches for 88 yards. After trying several guys early on, Arizona has clearly found its go-to guys in Grant, Phillips, Miller and sophomore David Richards.
Offensive line: C+: After a couple of strong games in a row, this unit wasn’t at its best on Saturday. Rodriguez said as much after the game when he mentioned the offensive line wasn’t getting a good push against a Cal defensive front that entered the game struggling. Denker was sacked three times and Carey averaged under five yards a carry and often didn’t have big holes to run through. All total, Cal had 10 tackles for loss, which is too high of a number for a struggling defense.
Front six: C+: This group should be graded on a curve because it was without senior middle linebacker Jake Fischer, who was sidelined with a knee injury. But for the fourth time in five Pac-12 games, the UA didn’t pick up a sack. Cal, normally weak running the ball, managed to average five yards per carry in the loss. Not only was Cal quarterback Jared Goff not sacked, he often had as much time to throw as he wanted. On the positive side, true freshman Scooby Wright had 11 tackles, including three for a loss. Marquis Flowers was also productive with 10 tackles and nose tackle Tevin Hood picked up a tackle for loss in the win.
Back five: B-: All in all, this group had a pretty solid game. Tra’Mayne Bondurant was active in his first game back from a concussion and was around the ball often. Jonathan McKnight and Jourdon Grandon each had big second half interceptions at critical times. Cal quarterback Jared Goff’s longest completion of the night was 29 yards, which the UA certainly would have been happy with entering the game. Jared Tevis, who missed the last two games with a knee injury, played more of a linebacker spot with Fischer out, but was active either way with eight tackles and a forced fumble.
Special teams: A-: This was this group’s best game of the season. Kicker Jake Smith hit a career-long 53-yard field goal in the second quarter and just missed a 55-yarder as the first half expired. Punter Drew Riggleman was solid averaging 41.4 yards on eight punts, including a 56-yarder. He landed four of his eight punts inside the 20-yard line. Nate Phillips even had a 19-yard punt return in the win. Phillips did muff a punt in the second half, but recovered it right away. There was a lot to like with the special teams on Saturday and Rodriguez certainly hopes it’ll continue going forward.