The UA’s report card for its 31-26 home loss to UCLA.
Quarterbacks: C: B.J. Denker played hard and made some nice throws that he couldn’t have dreamt of making earlier this season, but he also left plenty of plays on the field. The senior finished 20 for 33 for 186 yards two touchdowns and one interception. His pick came on his final throw of the night when the Wildcats were trying to drive to win the game. The UA got the ball with 2:33 on the clock and no timeouts. It was a tough task, no doubt, but Denker threw two incompletions before the pick. He did average 5.1 yards on the ground and had 82 yards on 16 carries and avoided sacks throughout. It’s unfair to say the passing game took a step back against UCLA, but it certainly didn’t move forward.
Running backs: B-: Ka’Deem Carey finished with 149 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, which is a top-notch game for most running backs. But the UCLA game was more about what Carey didn’t do. He didn’t score in the third quarter from five yards out when he leapt over the goal line and fumbled the ball into the end zone. And he didn’t convert on fourth-and-1 from UCLA’s 15-yard line in the first quarter. Carey’s longest run was 24 yards and he still managed to get his yards against an athletic UCLA defense that knew he was getting the ball all night.
Wide receivers: C+: Freshman Nate Phillips continues to be Denker’s go-to guy. Phillips set career highs with catches (eight), yards (97) and touchdowns (2) in the loss. The Chandler native has scored a touchdown in five straight games and has become both a threat and a playmaker. Other than Phillips though, this group didn’t do much. Senior Terrence Miller had five catches for 43 yards. David Richards was quiet with two catches for 23 yards and freshman Samajie Grant had three catches for 16 yards.
Offensive line: B-: It’s hard to complain too much about a group that helped the UA gain 425 yards of total offense and 5.3 yards per play. The line also didn’t give allow a sack of B.J. Denker in the loss. But UCLA had six tackles for loss and forced Denker to scramble quite a bit. A lot of lines have fared worse against UCLA’s front seven this season and at the end of the day, the UA’s line held its own. Fabbians Ebbele and Lene Maiava continue to rotate at right tackle. The line did have two holding calls and a false start penalty it would like to have back.
Front six: C+: Rich Rodriguez was not a happy man after the UA’s five-point loss and one of the biggest reasons was that his defense couldn’t wrap up and couldn’t get off blocks. UCLA averaged 5.1 yards per carry on the ground and the front six could not get off blocks and stop Myles Jack, who had 120 yards on just six carries. Quarterback Brett Hundley made plays, but was sacked four times, which is a very high number for a front that does not usually generate a lot of sacks. This group played hard, but probably didn’t take enough advantage of playing against an offensive line with three true freshmen starting.
Back five: C: Hundley completed 18 of 25 passes for 227 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. Cornerback Jonathan McKnight seemed to have a difficult time with UCLA receiver Shaq Evans, who finished with four catches for 97 yards and two scores. On Jack’s 66-yard touchdown run in the second half, both free safety Jourdon Grandon and cornerback Shaq Richardson had chances to bring him down, but couldn’t wrap up. Safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant was a bright spot in the secondary with 10 tackles, including two and a half for loss and a sack.
Special teams: A-: It’s hard to find much wrong with this unit. Punter Drew Riggleman had, by far, his best game of the season. The Sahuaro High School product averaged 51.8 yards per punt on five boots and had a long of 58 yards. He landed two inside the 20-yard line and didn’t have any touchbacks. Kicker Jake Smith was 2 for 2 on field goals, hitting from 44 and 27 yards out and made both of his extra-point attempts. The UA didn’t return any of Sean Covington’s six punts. The lone return was a 22-yard kickoff return from Jared Baker.