The report card for the Arizona Wildcats for their season opener against NAU:
B: Coach Rich Rodriguez has said several times he wants a quarterback that’s good enough to win with. B.J. Denker was good enough to win with on Friday night. Denker was better on the ground than he was in the air. He rushed for 71 yards on 13 carries, including a 30-yard TD. He only attempted 13 passes, most of which were short throws and he didn’t turn the ball over. Javelle Allen got in for one series and had a 61-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
A: Daniel Jenkins filled in admirably for Ka’Deem Carey, who was suspended for the opener. Jenkins was electric on his 91-yard touchdown run when he took off sprinting down the sideline. He found holes from his offensive line and hit them decisively. He only had 12 carries, but gave the UA plenty of production. Jared Baker also looked good when he was called upon, rushing for 29 yards on seven carries and catching a 17-yard pass.
B-: The receivers weren’t active Friday night, which isn’t entirely their fault. The group caught just five passes for 57 yards and didn’t seem to create a ton of separation from NAU’s defensive backs. Garic Wharton had a nice 31-yard catch on the opening drive. Certainly, Rodriguez would like to see senior Terrence Miller catch more than one pass. Rodriguez said after the game he would like to be better in the passing game next week.
A-: Arizona’s front five was dominant against a smaller NAU defensive front. The starting unit of Fabbians Ebbele, Chris Putton, Steven Gurrola, Cayman Bundage and Mickey Baucus opened holes for Jenkins and the running backs and didn’t allow a sack of Denker or Allen in the win. Depth is still a bit of a concern up front, but Rodriguez and first-year offensive line coach Jim Michalczik have to be pleased with the first game performance.
B+: The front six went up against an NAU offensive line that started two freshmen and then saw their starting center get hurt in the first quarter and not return. So, they should have been good Friday night and they were. Sione Tuihalamaka was active on the defensive line with five tackles, two of which went for a loss. Freshman linebacker Scooby Wright stood out and ended the night with six tackles and tipped a pass, which eventually ended up getting intercepted by safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant.
B: Bondurant was the star in the secondary with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown and had seven total tackles. He’s an aggressive safety that has a nose for a ball and he showed it Friday night. True freshman cornerback Devin Holiday had an interception to go with two tackles and will provide solid depth for starters Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight.
C: Jake Smith was perfect on extra points. That’s the good news. But, Smith missed a 28-yarder and punter Drew Riggleman had punts of 15 and 18 yards. Returner Nate Phillips also muffed two punts but the UA was able to recover both. As the team gets deeper into the season against better competition, this unit will have to be more consistent.