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September 28, 2013

Denker, Wildcats fire blanks at No. 16 Washington



Through three games, Arizona and quarterback B.J. Denker had heard about how the Wildcats could not throw the ball and did not have any quality wins.

The questions about both areas were met by defiance leading up to Saturday's game at No. 16-ranked Washington. Those concerns may have only grown in Seattle, however.

Denker was wildly inaccurate on a rainy afternoon and fired his first two interceptions of the season - including a pick during a fourth-quarter comeback attempt - in a 31-13 loss to the Huskies to open Pac-12 Conference play.

The senior completed just 14 of 35 throws for 119 yards for the Wildcats (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12), who generated 318 yards of total offense.

Star running back Ka'Deem Carey shouldered the load, rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 30 carries. He also added a team-best four catches for 49 yards.

Meanwhile, UW senior quarterback Keith Price bounced back from a poor first half to complete 10 of 13 throws over the final two quarters. Price finished 14 of 25 for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

Trailing by just five after a wacky first half, the Wildcats quickly allowed their first points in the third quarter all season on Austin Seferian-Jenkins' 1-yard grab. It was the first of back-to-back 90-plus-yard drives by the Huskies (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) to create separation.

After failing to produce much rhythm to that point, the UA offense responded with a gutsy drive. Denker converted a fourth-down pass to Carey for 24 yards on a wheel route to get the Wildcats inside the red zone. Two plays later, Denker faked a reverse and took the punishment on a diving touchdown over the left pylon to pull within 18-13.

But Price responded with a 10-play drive highlighted by a 49-yard pass to Kevin Smith. Running back Bishop Sankey, who set a school record with 40 carries, capped the sequence with a 1-yard score to extend the lead to 25-13 with 1:25 left in the third.

Sankey finished with a game-high 161 rushing yards.

Midway through the fourth and trailing by the same score, Denker got the Wildcats to midfield and on the verge of threatening. But on first down, he ran to his left and forced a throw across his body that was intercepted by Marcus Peters with 7:36 remaining.

Jesse Callier sealed the final margin with a 2-yard run for the Huskies, who are off to their best start in 12 seasons.

After playing mistake-free on his first 55 throws of the season, Denker's first pass sailed high and into the arms of Sean Parker, who returned it eight yards to the Arizona 35.

On the next drive, Jourdon Grandon's mental gaffe and personal foul led to a 7-yard touchdown from Price to Smith.

The next UA possession wasn't much better, as Denker was sacked by Cory Littleton to cap a three-and-out.

The offense did not improve much throughout the rest of the quarter, producing just 11 yards - all via the rush - without collecting a single first down. Denker did not throw a completion until early in the second quarter.

The Wildcats' special teams unit did not perform much better, as punter Drew Riggleman watched a snap go through his hands and into the back of the end zone for a safety. Place-kicker Jake Smith's ensuing intentional short kick was then returned 49 yards by Kasen Williams.

All things considered, the disaster only amounted to an 8-0 hole by the end of the first quarter, running Washington's margin to 36-0 against opponents this season through the opening 15 minutes.

The defense, which allowed 409 yards for the contest, was the only thing that kept UA within reasonable striking distance in the first half. Price completed just 4 of 12 passes for 39 yards - three less than Denker - and tossed an interception to UA cornerback Shaquille Richardson. The Wildcats kept the game within two scores despite 101 first-half yards from Sankey.

Trailing 11-0, the Wildcats finally got going just before the end of the half. Denker, who had telegraphed most of his runs early, found a hole and ran 33 yards to inside the UW 5. Carey then capped the drive with a 3-yard run - his 12th consecutive game with a rushing touchdown, dating back to last season.

The 84-yard scoring drive accounted for more than half of UA's 149 first-half yards.

Smith missed the ensuing extra point, however, as the Huskies took an 11-6 lead into the locker room.

Game notes

UA senior linebacker Jake Fischer left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent right leg injury. Fischer, who was helped off the field, did not apply any pressure on the leg as he limped off.

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Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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