The Arizona Wildcats fell to 3-2 after a 38-31 loss to USC Thursday. Here’s a report card from this past week’s game:
Senior B.J. Denker stepped up for the Wildcats and played his best game of the season so far, completing 28-of-44 passes for 363 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He set new career highs in completions, pass attempts and yards and touchdowns. The jump was ugly, but effective, and almost led to a miraculous comeback.
Running Backs: B
This group will continue to receive high grades until junior Ka’deem Carey bolts for the NFL. Carey rushed for 138 yards on 21 carries, good for 6.6 yards per carry. He also added six receptions for 36 yards. While he didn’t record a touchdown for the first time in eight games, Carey now has eight-straight games with 100-plus rushing yards.
Wide Receivers: A
The wide receiver corp rewarded Denker’s ability to get them ball by making a number of big catches and plays. Six different receivers had at least two catches and four players – Johnny Jackson, Nate Phillips, Garic Wharton and Terrence Miller – had at least 50 yards receiving. Wharton caught two touchdowns, while Phillips and Richards had one each.
Offensive Line: C
The offensive line took a bit of a hit with senior Chris Putton unavailable in the first quarter due to a knee injury. However, they were solid overall, blocking the way for 145 rushing yards. They received a low grade because Denker was constantly flustered in the pocket and they did allow two sacks. They also received their first holding penalty of the season when Steven Gurrola was flagged in the second quarter.
Defensive Line: C
The line got virtually no pressure on USC quarterback Cody Kessler, as the Trojans threw for 297 yards. Reggie Gilbert did have 1.5 tackles for loss and Kirifi Taula did have a pass deflection, but the defensive line overall played a very underwhelming game.
Middle linebacker Jake Fischer was obviously not healthy, as he was beat for a 63-yard touchdown pass to USC running back Tre Madden in the first quarter. Additionally, the Wildcats allowed 249 rushing yards on 45 carries, good for 5.5 yards per rush. Marquis Flowers led all players with 14 tackles (1.5 for loss). Even though it was a questionable call, Scooby Wright had a 15-yard personal foul penalty that set up an important USC touchdown in the second quarter.
Both Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight had a hard time sticking with the USC receivers in the first half. Richardson finished with three tackles, but also committed two personal foul penalties in the first half. McKnight finsihed with six tackles and three passes broken up.
While Tra’mayne Bondurant, Jared Tevis and Jourdon Grandon put up nice stats, the trio of safeties was not very active and struggled with tackling and coverage. As the last line of defense, they yielded over five plays of 20-plus yards, including two 60-yard touchdown passes. Tevis finished with nine tackles, Grandon had seven and Bondurant had six.
Special Teams: D
Punter Drew Riggleman had two of his six punts blocked and ended up only averaging 40.0 yards per punt. Kicker Jake Smith missed a field goal on the opening drive that could have established momentum in the Wildcats’ favor. If not for a 21-yard punt return by Johnny Jackson, this grade probably would have been worse.
The play calling didn’t seem like it was the problem, but rather the execution. The Wildcats were outmuscled on both lines and couldn’t come up with a big play on defense when they needed to. Head coach Rich Rodriguez must have said something inspirational at halftime because the Wildcats were almost able to erase a 21-point deficit and steal a win.
Topics: 2013 Football Report Cards, Arizona Wildcats Football, B.J. Denker, Chris Putton, David Richards, Drew Riggleman, Follow, Garic Wharton, Index, Jake Fischer, Jake Smith, Jared Tevis, Johnny Jackson, Jonathan McKnight, Jourdon Grandon, Ka'deem Carey, Marquis Flowers, Nate Phillips, Rich Rodriguez, Scooby Wright, Shaquille Richardson, Steven Gurrola, Terrence Miller, Tra'mayne Bondurant, Tre Madden, USC Trojans