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September 15, 2013

Arizona starts 3-0, passing game clicks in rout

With one contest left before the start of Pac-12 Conference play, Arizona worked out the kinks in the passing game Saturday night.

Senior quarterback B.J. Denker topped 100 passing yards for the first time this season and threw a touchdown as the Wildcats rolled to a 38-13 win over Texas-San Antonio in front of 41,661 fans at Arizona Stadium.

Denker completed 14 of 21 passes for 158 yards and added 90 rushing yards and pair of scores for the Wildcats (3-0), who have a bye next week before traveling to Washington. Last week at UNLV, the Torrance, Calif., native was particularly hard on himself after connecting on just 8 of 21 throws.

"I felt good," said Denker, who had completed just 50 percent of his throws coming into the contest. "We threw the ball a lot more this game. ... Completed some balls downfield, our receivers got open.

"It was a good day. I was happy with my performance."

True freshman receiver Samajie Grant led the way with five catches for 48 yards and a first-quarter touchdown. Running back Ka'Deem Carey added 89 of his game-high 128 rushing yards in the second half and finished with two rushing touchdowns.

In the week leading up to the game, UA head coach Rich Rodriguez's players said the offense would open up the playbook a bit more after failing to crack 90 passing yards in each of the first two contests.

Denker came out firing, completing 5 of 6 passes on UA's first drive, and Grant made four of the grabs - including a 13-yard touchdown. Grant's 46 yards on the drive surpassed the most for any UA receiver in an entire game in the first two weeks.

"B.J. was feeling good," Rodriguez said of his quarterback's quick start to set the tone. "I thought we made a couple nice catches with some of our young guys.

"The biggest thing with our quarterbacks in our system, they have to really be able to see the field well - both in the run and the pass game. I think the first touchdown pass that B.J. threw was a run-pass option, and he made the right decision and scrambled and made the right play. Usually, an experienced quarterback makes that kind of play."

It was another solid night for the defense, which forced a pair of turnovers to offset 379 yards of total offense by the Roadrunners (1-2). Defensive backs Tra'Mayne Bondurant and Shaquille Richardson collected a team-high eight tackles apiece, and Bondurant also broke up three passes.

On the ensuing drive, Jourdon Grandon continued the defense's string of at least one interception per game. Three plays later, Denker added a 35-yard touchdown run to extend the Wildcats' lead to 14-3 at the 3:03 mark.

UTSA quarterback Eric Soza completed 30 of 46 passes for 277 yards.

"That's going to be us," Rodriguez said of the ability to create turnovers and cash in for points. "I'd like to say that we're going to be dominant, that we're going to get a whole bunch of three-and-outs, but that's not going to happen.

"For us to win games in our league, we've got to create some turnovers or get some turnovers, and then offensively take care of the ball."

UTSA, which moved the ball well on the game's opening drive but stalled the rest of the quarter, was hurt by its own lack of discipline in the second.

After collecting a first down on fourth-and-1, the Roadrunners were penalized for a 15-yard personal foul that put the ball back on its own 33. David Glasco then ripped off a 42-yard run on the next play, but UTSA eventually had to settle for a 43-yard field goal to cap an 11-play drive that amounted to just 49 yards thanks to the penalty.

Trailing 17-6 midway through the quarter, the Roadrunners then forced a three-and-out to give the offense the ball back. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty killed any hopes of inching closer on the next drive.

Before the half was done, Carey made UTSA pay with a 4-yard touchdown run, giving him at least one in each of his last 11 games dating back to last season's All-American campaign. UA took a 24-6 advantage into the locker room.

For the game, the Roadrunners were flagged six times for 63 yards.

"They were telling us that there was some maybe a little extracurricular stuff going on. I told our guys, 'Just keep your poise,'" Rodriguez said.

The UA defense continued its impressive turnaround, collecting a sack and forcing two fumbles - one recovered - to shut out UTSA in the third. Denker's second rushing touchdown of the night early in the quarter helped UA take a 31-6 lead into the fourth.

Carey tacked on the 33rd touchdown of his career, scoring on a 7-yard run in the fourth to put him 11 away from Art Luppino's school record.

After a slow start, Carey was able to collect 4.7 yards per carry, bouncing off and dragging would-be tacklers on a handful of punishing runs.

"[UTSA] was ready to hit. They didn't back down," Carey said.

Glasco's 4-yard score with 9:39 to play cut the deficit to 38-13, ending the UA defense's bid to hold UTSA under the 6.5 point-per-game average it carried into the contest.

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Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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