The UA’s report card for its 24-17 home loss to Washington State.
Quarterbacks: C-: Denker’s final statistics were pretty respectable. He finished 26 for 38 for 200 yards and a touchdown through the air and added 64 rushing yards on 17 attempts on the ground. He only committed one turnover —a fumble in the second quarter. But it’s not all about stats and Denker certainly didn’t have one of his better games. He wasn’t sharp throwing the ball and was often off the mark. The team seems to have abandoned throwing deep and is back to nothing but short options. Denker seemed to make good reads and decisions, he just didn’t execute when he needed to and Arizona had too many short drives as a result.
Running backs: B-: Ka’Deem Carey did his part Saturday afternoon. The junior ran for 132 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He also added 45 yards on six catches and a touchdown as a receiver. But against a Washington State team that’s really struggled against the rush, Carey probably should have had a bigger game. And, because of the situation, Carey wasn’t a big part of Arizona’s offense late when it needed a score down seven. Carey was better than average, but not excellent, so he gets a B-.
Wide receivers: D+: This group looked like it labored again, much the way it did early in the season. Receivers weren’t creating separation off the line of scrimmage and weren’t making plays for Denker in general. Only four receivers — Nate Phillips, Samajie Grant, Trey Griffey and Terrence Miller —caught passes in the loss. Griffey, getting his first career start, looked sharp and sure-handed, but he was really the only bright spot. He started for David Richards, who didn’t have a catch in limited action. Most of Grant and Phillips’ yards came on short gainers underneath. There just wasn’t a ton to like from the receivers on Saturday.
Offensive line: C-: Denker was only sacked once, but he was forced to scramble out of the pocket quite a few times and throw under pressure. Washington State only had two tackles for loss, but it seemed like more and that the pressure from its defensive front was consistent. Rich Rodriguez remarked after the game that Carey didn’t have a lot of room to run and there weren’t a lot of holes for him. The same five linemen —Fabbians Ebbele, Chris Putton, Steven Gurrola, Cayman Bundage and Mickey Baucus — played the entire game. Lene Maiava, who had been rotating with Ebbele at right tackle, didn’t play.
Front six: D+: The front six really struggled to get any sort of a pass rush on Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday and that was a major concern of Rodriguez’s coming into the game. Arizona managed to have four sacks, but most were coverage sacks when Halliday didn’t have anywhere to go with the ball. The UA played seven different linemen and tried to find a combination that worked, but struggled to do so. At the linebacker spot, Scooby Wright played his fewest snaps of the season, while the UA experimented with some different looks there.
Back five: C: For as much time as Halliday had to throw, the secondary did a decent, but not great job. Cornerbacks Shaq Richardson and Jonathan McKnight played pretty well. Most of Halliday’s damage came over the middle, when he targeted UA safeties Jourdon Grandon, Tra’Mayne Bondurant and Will Parks. Bondurant did have his fourth interception of the season, but wasn’t very active otherwise. It was a very average performance from the secondary when the Wildcats could have used an above-average one.
Special teams: F: The first “F” of the season goes to the special teams group. Kicker Jake Smith was just 1 of 3 on field goal attempts, missing from 40 and 34 yards. He’s been pretty solid this season, but had an off night, which happens. Punter Drew Riggleman, after a strong game last week, had a 17-yard punt in the first quarter and then had trouble handling a low snap from Chase Gorham, which turned into a fumble. He didn’t land any of his four punts inside the 20. Nate Phillips had just one punt return for eight yards and muffed a fair catch, which he managed to get back.