The Arizona Wildcats looked like a one-dimensional team when they went into Seattle and lost to the Washington Huskies 31-13 on September 28. Ka’Deem Carey got his yards and a touchdown and looked very strong running the football, but he wasn’t getting any help from the passing game and quarterback B.J. Denker. Up through the loss to UW, Denker was struggling, completing just 50 percent of his passes, averaging 111.25 yards per game through the air with two touchdowns and two interceptions in four games. Since then, he’s looked like a completely different quarterback and is making Arizona a dangerous team to watch in the Pac 12 South.
His turnaround started in a Thursday night game against the USC Trojans where he went off with 363 yards passing, completing 63.6 percent of his throws with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He picked up the slack of his inability to get going in the running game with his arm for the first time and showed that the Cats’ passing attack did indeed have some claws. He’s kept that strong play going, throwing for 796 yards and six touchdowns in the last three games with just one interception and has completed no fewer than 60 percent of his passes during that stretch.
Having the ability to drop back and throw the ball will only help to open up the offense for Arizona down the stretch. If teams only have to worry about bottling up Carey and containing Denker when he takes off to run (he’s rushed for 519 yards and eight touchdowns this season), then they can load up the box with extra defenders to close down the running lanes and stifle the Arizona offense. If Denker can keep this hot-streak rolling in the passing game, teams will be forced to play honest and keep defenders deep to defend the pass, creating more space for the dynamic running attack of the Wildcats.
If Denker has truly found his rhythm and is going to be a viable passer for this offense, the rest of the Pac 12 South better watch out for Arizona. They sit a game back of the Arizona State Sun Devils for the division lead in a three-way tie with USC and the UCLA Bruins. Both ASU and UCLA remain on the Wildcats’ schedule (along with a home-date against the Oregon Ducks), so there’s an opportunity to make a move in Tucson.
The question now is whether or not Denker is prepared to lead them on that move. If he has turned the corner as a passer and will stretch the field vertically with his arm, then the Cats have a very good chance of shocking the Pac 12.