The UA’s report card for its 35-24 home win over Utah.
B: Starter B.J. Denker again played turnover-free football in the UA’s win and did enough to lead his team to a crucial home win over a solid league opponent. The senior finished 18 for 30 for 168 yards and a touchdown. He also added 51 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Denker missed a couple of throws he’d like to have back. But he made good reads throughout the game, besides a shaky one on fourth down in the first quarter on the goal line. His best throw came early in the fourth quarter when he found Nate Phillips down the sideline. It was a clutch throw that his team needed and led to a touchdown three plays later.
A: “A” stands for excellent and that’s exactly what Ka’Deem Carey was Saturday against Utah. He had one miscue, which was a fumble in the fourth quarter. It could have been costly, but it turned out not to be. The Canyon del Oro High School product was good all game and got better as the game went on, which has become normal for him. He finished with 236 yards on a school-record 40 carries. His 44-yard fun late in the fourth quarter sealed the win for the Wildcats. The junior has now rushed for more than 100 yards in nine straight games and went over 3,000 career yards with his effort Saturday.
B: Phillips had his second straight strong game and continues to emerge as a true freshman. He’s developed good chemistry with Denker and has become a weapon. David Richards only had three catches for 23 yards, but his deep routes opened things up for the UA’s other receivers underneath and a Utes safety was forced to pay attention to him. This group isn’t flashy and still has room to improve, but it was solid Saturday and is doing enough to help Denker succeed.
A-: This group deserves a lot of credit, especially for its late game performance. The starting unit of Fabbians Ebbele, Chris Putton, Steven Gurrola, Cayman Bundage and Mickey Baucus played the entire game and never wore down. In the fourth quarter, when Utah was fully aware Arizona was going to Carey, the offensive line still managed to open big holes for the junior. The line showed it was in excellent shape with its strong fourth quarter performance, which is what coach Rich Rodriguez strives for.
B+: The defensive line and linebackers had one of their stronger games of the year. The group combined for seven tackles for loss, three sacks and an interception. Middle linebacker Jake Fischer appeared fully healthy after spraining his ankle against Washington and led the team with 12 tackles. Defensive end Sione Tuihalamaka had somewhat of a breakout game with eight tackles, including one and a half for a loss. Reggie Gilbert had two tackles for loss and a sack and linebacker Marquis Flowers returned an interception 14 yards for a score. Reserve Justin Washington was also strong with two tackles for loss and sophomore linebacker/defensive end Sir Thomas Jackson had a timely sack.
B: This group was without Jared Tevis for the entire game and Tra’Mayne Bondurant for three and a half quarters. Fill-ins Will Parks and Anthony Lopez held their own, despite a couple of plays they’d like to have back. Cornerback Shaq Richardson had his second interception of the season, but was beat on Utah’s first touchdown of the game. Lopez was tripped up on a 55-yard touchdown pass. But overall the group was improved from last week’s loss at USC.
D+: This was really the only sore spot for the UA in a solid win. Johnny Jackson muffed two punts and lost one. He had three returns for a total of five yards. Phillips eventually took over and had an eight-yard return. Kicker Jake Smith saw an extra point get blocked, which could have been a big blunder, but turned out to be. Punter Drew Riggleman was fine, averaging 40 yards per punt with a long of 44. He landed one of his four boots inside the 20. Smith had four touchbacks on six kicks. The coverage teams allowed a 29-yard kickoff return and a 14-yard punt return.