Arizona Wildcats vs. NAU: Report Card


The Arizona Wildcats cruised to a 35-0 win over the NAU Lumberjacks in the rain Friday. Here’s a report card from yesterday’s season opener:

Quarterback: C
Not surprisingly, B.J. Denker‘s biggest strength in the game was his mobility. He rushed for 71 yards on 13 carries, including a 30-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. However, Denker’s arm was not quite where it needs to be, as he threw for 87 yards. In his defense, the play-calling was slightly conservative – the Wildcats only threw only 13 times – but Denker underthrew nearly all of his deep balls, completing only five passes for 57 yards to his receivers. Backup Javelle Allen broke off a 61-yard touchdown run on his third career snap.

Running Backs: A
Despite Ka’deem Carey‘s suspension, the Wildcats rushing attack did not skip a beat, as Daniel Jenkins and Jared Baker combined for 168 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown. They also combined for four catches for 30 yards and another touchdown. Jenkins, who rushed for a 139 yards, eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career. He provided the offensive play of the game in second quarter, breaking a 91-yard touchdown run, the third-longest run in Arizona history.

Wide Receivers: B
The Wildcats wide receivers were not relied upon heavily in the season opener. Garic Wharton led the way with two catches for 35 yards, while Johnny Jackson and Terrence Miller caught one pass each. Wharton continuously beat the Lumberjacks’ secondary and would have had a long touchdown reception if Denker hadn’t underthrown him.

Offensive Line: A
The Wildcats’ most underappreciated unit was extremely effective in the opener as they blocked the way for 306 Arizona rushing yards. The combination of Fabbians Ebbele, Chris Putton, Steven Gurrola, Cayman Bundage and Mickey Baucus did not allow a sack in the game and were not flagged for holding.

Defensive Line: B
Sione Tuihalamaka, Tevin Hood and Justin Washington combined for four tackles for loss, just three less than they recorded last season. Hood also recorded one sack, eclipsing the amount he recorded last year. The line made Lumberjacks’ quarterback Kyren Poe extremely uncomfortable in his first career start, finishing with three sacks and forced three interceptions. More impressively, the Wildcats held Zach Bauman to only 71 yards rushing on 21 carries.

Linebackers: B
Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer, who were relied on heavily last season, were as good as they needed to be last night, combining for 13 tackles (one for loss). Scooby Wright was as good as advertised as he recorded six tackles (one for loss), while also tipping a pass that was eventually intercepted. Another true freshman, Derrick Turituri, was equally as impressive as a pass-rusher, recording one sack and forcing Poe out of the pocket a number of other times.

Cornerbacks: B
Shaquille Richardson played one of his better games as an Arizona Wildcat, recording two tackles for loss, as many as he had last season. While fellow seniors Jonathan McKnight and Derrick Rainey were pretty quiet, the Wildcats yielded 176 yards passing, but only 87 of those yards came from Lumberjacks wide receivers. Devin Holiday recorded an interception in his collegiate debut.

Safeties: A
Tra’mayne Bondurant was the best player in the game, recording two interceptions, the first of which he returned for a touchdown, and seven tackles (one for loss). The 21-yard interception return for touchdown was the second of his career, with the first coming on Nov. 12, 2011 against Colorado. Fellow starters Jared Tevis and Jourdon Grandon combined for nine tackles, while Wayne Capers Jr. accounted for the only pass break-up recorded in the game.

Special Teams: D
While Jake Smith was a perfect 5-for-5 on PATs, he missed a 28-year field goal wide right in the third quarter. Punter Drew Riggleman was inconsistent, recording punts of 18 and 15 yards, while also nailing 44 and 55-yard punts inside the 20. True freshman Nate Phillips muffed two punt returns before being replaced by Johnny Jackson. The two combined for 19 yards on four punt returns.

Coaching: C
Rich Rodriguez was uncharacteristically tentative in his play-calling, throwing the ball only 13 times compared to 34 rushing attempts. While Rodriguez likely wanted to ease Denker into the starting position, nearly half of those 13 passes were running back or wide receiver screens. While Denker lacks the arm strength that Matt Scott possessed, the Arizona Wildcats offense won’t be able to survive the Pac-12 schedule by relying on screen passes and the running game.