UA football: Denker spent senior season as wire-to-wire starter

2013-12-11T00:00:00Z UA football: Denker spent senior season as wire-to-wire starterBy Daniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

When B.J. Denker took the field and lined up in the shotgun formation in Week 1, it was hardly a surprise.

The Cerritos Junior College product signed with the UA before the 2012 season and served as Matt Scott’s backup his first season in Tucson. This year, he beat out redshirt freshman Javelle Allen, USC transfer Jesse Scroggins and true freshman Anu Solomon in fall camp and won the job despite no formal announcement from coach Rich Rodriguez.

But when Denker took Arizona’s first snap of the season, it seemed like the quarterback competition was really just getting started. It stood to reason the 6-foot-3-inch, 184-pound Denker would face at least some in-season competition from one of the challengers.

Instead, Denker took every meaningful snap for the Wildcats during the regular season. He threw for 2,241 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran for 898 yards and 12 more scores.

Here’s a look at Denker’s up-and-down journey as “QB 1.”

April 13

  • What happened:
  • The UA hosted its spring game at Kindall/Sancet Stadium.
  • Why it mattered:
  • Denker completed 13 of 20 passes for 246 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Denker took first-team snaps throughout spring drills; his strong performance put a punctuation mark on the spring.
  • Quotable:
  • “He was pretty sharp. I’ve seen him make a lot of strides this spring, getting more confident, having great eye discipline, making the right decisions.” — Rodriguez

Aug. 3

  • What happened:
  • The UA hosted its first practice of fall camp.
  • Why it mattered:
  • Denker, like all of the quarterbacks, struggled and drew some criticism from Rodriguez. Denker fumbled on his first snap of the practice and left a lot to be desired.
  • Quotable:
  • “He competed, he’s in good shape, he worked hard, but the execution in the passing game should be a lot better.” — Rodriguez

Aug. 17

  • What happened:
  • The Wildcats hosted an open practice at Arizona Stadium and went through scrimmage-like conditions.
  • Why it mattered:
  • The quarterback had his strongest performance of the fall, going 8 for 8 for 63 yards on the offense’s first drive of the practice. Denker showed off his running ability and knack for making good decisions as well. His performance came one night after his teammates had some fun at the quarterback’s expense at a team talent show.
  • Quotable:
  • “Guys like to poke fun at me, and I can take it. I’ve definitely been the fan favorite of being made fun of this camp, which was expected because I got the most fire on me. It was funny to laugh at myself, and it gave me a little fire today, and I performed pretty well. I was pretty happy with it.” — Denker

Aug. 30

  • What happened:
  • Arizona blanked NAU 35-0 in the season opener.
  • Why it mattered:
  • Although he was never formally announced as the starter, Denker took the first snap in the UA’s season-opener against the Lumberjacks. The senior went 9 for 13 for 87 yards and a touchdown and added 71 yards and a score on the ground.
  • Quotable:
  • “He took care of the ball and made a lot of good decisions. In our system, our quarterback has to make a lot of good decisions in the run game, and I thought he made a lot of good decisions there. There were a couple of throws that he’d like to have back.” — Rodriguez

Sept. 28

  • What happened:
  • The Wildcats lost at Washington 31-13 in their Pac-12 opener.
  • Why it mattered:
  • After struggling to get the passing game going in the UA’s three nonconference games, Denker and the UA took their troubles to another level. Denker went 14 for 35 for 119 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns in the loss in Seattle.
  • Quotable:
  • “It was just a terrible individual performance on my part. When I cross the white lines for practice, my head’s going to be clear. But when I go home and lay my head down at night, it’s probably going to be a little bit of a different story.” — Denker

Oct. 19

  • What happened:
  • Host Arizona beat Utah 35-24 after a seven-point road loss at USC.
  • Why it mattered:
  • After a strong second half against the Trojans, Denker put together a good game against the Utes, going 18 for 30 for 168 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 51 yards and two scores in the victory.
  • Quotable:
  • “In the second half of the USC game, I saw his confidence grow. I saw it all week (leading up to Utah), probably for the first time to the level we expected it from our starting quarterback.” — Rodriguez

Nov. 23

  • What happened:
  • A week after a seven-point loss to Washington State, Arizona shocked No. 5 Oregon 42-16.
  • Why it mattered:
  • Denker played his best game of the season, completing 19 of 22 passes for 178 yards and two scores and adding 102 yards rushing in the surprising win over the Ducks.
  • Quotable:
  • “On this stage for a guy that nobody knew about out of high school and nobody knew about out of junior college and nobody knew about two months ago, I was pretty proud of B.J. Denker.” — Rodriguez

Nov. 30

  • What happened:
  • Arizona was blown out 58-21 by Arizona State in its regular-season finale.
  • Why it mattered:
  • Just seven days after his brilliant performance against the Ducks, Denker turned in his worst showing of the season. He threw three interceptions for the first time in his UA career and struggled with his decision-making, which had been one of his strong points. His final numbers: 15 for 30, 175 yards and three picks.
  • Quotable:
  • “Luckily we have a bowl game. We have almost a month to prepare, so I know we’re going to be focused on that. If we go out with a win in our bowl game, it’ll taste a lot better than it does right now.” — Denker

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pac-12 South football standings

Team W L T PCT
Arizona 5 1 0 0.833
Utah 5 1 0 0.833
USC 5 2 0 0.714
ASU 5 1 0 0.833
UCLA 5 2 0 0.714
Colorado 3 4 0 0.429

Pac-12 North football standings

Team W L T PCT
Oregon 6 1 0 0.857
Oregon State 4 2 0 0.667
Stanford 4 3 0 0.571
Washington 5 2 0 0.714
Cal 4 3 0 0.571
Washington State 2 5 0 0.286
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