Late in Thursday’s 38-31 loss to USC, a couple of Arizona’s receivers had an important message for quarterback B.J. Denker.
“My receivers came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we have complete confidence in you. We know you can play,’” Denker relayed.
And then the quarterback added his own little postscript: “Now everyone outside of our football team can see that, too.”
Denker entered Thursday’s game having completed 45 of 90 passes for 445 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in four games.
Against the Trojans, the senior from Torrance, Calif., was 28 for 44 for 363 yards, four touchdowns and no picks.
Statistics don’t tell the whole story, but Denker’s performance on Thursday gave UA coach Rich Rodriguez some proof that the UA can still have an adequate — if not dangerous — passing attack moving forward.
“He was seeing the field well,” Rodriguez said. “That’s why we’ve been working hard on our passing game. B.J. can make the throws. I thought he did a pretty good job. When we got tempo going and we were pitching and catching, it was pretty good. We just didn’t do enough of it.”
Rodriguez admitted that Denker “missed some things in the first half,” notably the first pass of the game, but the quarterback improved as the game went on and finally seemed to establish some chemistry with his receivers.
Sure, a lot of the quarterback’s yards came in the fourth quarter, when USC was protecting a 21-point lead and wasn’t being as aggressive, but Denker still had more yards (209) at halftime than he did in any of his first four games total.
“B.J. has always been a confident kid,” Rodriguez said. “That’s never been an issue. As much as I’ve yelled at him and Coach (Rod) Smith has yelled at him, you’d think he would waver, but he’s never wavered about it. He competed. We just dug ourselves a hole and finally got a little bit of life there.”
Denker also spread the ball around in the loss to USC. Six different wide receivers — Terrence Miller, Samajie Grant, Johnny Jackson, David Richards, Garic Wharton and Nate Phillips — registered catches.
“We threw the ball 44 times, so a lot of guys are going to get a lot of opportunities,” Denker said. “Everybody stepped up. Everybody made big plays. That’s what this offense is all about.”
Fischer plays through pain
Senior middle linebacker Jake Fischer barely practiced leading up to the USC game because of an ankle sprain he suffered against Washington. But the Ironwood Ridge High School product played all but three snaps in the loss to the Trojans.
Fischer finished with eight tackles — third most on the team — and was credited with a half-tackle for loss.
“Jake battled,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know if he was 100 percent. Jake Fischer is a tough guy. He was into the game. He was battling.”
Senior cornerback Derrick Rainey, who played sparingly in the first four games, but had been a contributor on special teams, exited Thursday’s game early. He was on the sidelines with his shoulder pads off during the second half.
Ka’Deem Carey rushed for 138 yards on 21 carries against the Trojans and now ranks fourth in the country in yards per game at 142.3.
That mark ranks second in the Pac-12 behind Washington’s Bishop Sankey, who leads the nation in that category at 149.8.
The junior from Canyon del Oro High failed to score a touchdown against USC, snapping a string of 12 straight games in which he reached the end zone. Before Thursday, the last time Carey didn’t score was in the UA’s 49-0 loss to Oregon last season.
“I wish we could get more holes for Ka’Deem,” Rodriguez said. “There are a lot of great running backs, but I think Ka’Deem Carey is as good as anybody in the country. For what we do and how he battles, he’s just a tremendous football player.”
Prized offensive lineman recruit Layth Friekh, a product of Peoria Centennial High School, will visit the UA this weekend for the Wildcats’ game against Utah.
Freikh, listed at 6 feet 6 inches and 251 pounds, is considering Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Nebraska. He’s rated as a three-star prospect and the 46th best offensive tackle in the country by the Scout.com recruiting service.
Freikh visited Washington last weekend and saw the Huskies lose to Oregon.
The UA has 24 commitments for the 2014 class, but zero offensive tackles.
Levi Walton, a two-star tackle from Cape Coral, Fla., is also expected to visit Tucson this weekend.