SEATTLE (AP) — B.J. Denker had never played in weather conditions as extreme as what he faced Saturday. And it was more than apparent.
The Arizona quarterback was ineffective in leading a normally dynamic offense in a 31-13 loss to No. 16 Washington in a game played through a constant downpour and swirling winds.
“You can only do so much,” Denker said. “You got to try to keep the balls as dry as possible. My hand was constantly wet. Stay moving on the sidelines. You can try, but at the end of the day, it was pretty tough.”
Arizona entered the game averaging 431 yards of offense and almost 44 points per game. The combination of the elements and Washington’s defense made this one a bit different, as the Wildcats were limited to 318 yards and two touchdowns.
Denker’s first pass attempt of the game was a harbinger of things to come for the first-year starter, as Washington’s Sean Parker pulled down the overthrown pass a minute into the game for an interception. The senior quarterback finished with two interceptions and managed just 119 yards through the air on 14-of-35 passing.
“There were times he competed really well, and there were some egregious errors that he knows better than,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “It’s pretty obvious when you see things and you are like, ‘Gosh, you shouldn’t do that.’
“He’s a smart guy, though. He’ll learn from that. To beat a pretty good football team at their place, you have to play a clean game at every position, but especially at quarterback.”
Ka’Deem Carey kept the Arizona in the game through three quarters. He found the end zone on a 3-yard run for the Wildcats’ first score with 6 seconds left in the first half, and after a missed extra-point attempt, the Huskies took an 11-6 lead into halftime.
Carey, the NCAA’s leading rusher in 2012, was the focal point of the Arizona offense, running for 130 yards on a career-high 30 carries. But it was Washington running back Bishop Sankey who stole the show.
Sankey surpassed the school record of 38 carries set by Corey Dillon in 1996 against Washington State, running for 161 yards on 40 attempts.
“However many times they need me to carry,” Sankey said. “When I’m out there, the adrenaline is pumping. I’m not really thinking about how many carries I’m at, what the limit is. I’m just trying to pick up yards and move the chains.”
It was Sankey’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:25 left in the third quarter that gave the Huskies a 25-13 lead, and Arizona never threatened after that.
It wasn’t just Arizona that struggled with the extreme first-half conditions, as both offenses had trouble moving the chains in the downpour. Washington quarterback Keith Price went just 4 for 12 in the first half and finished with 165 yards through the air to go along with two touchdowns and an interception.
The rain lessened after halftime, though, and the offenses came out firing. Washington needed to convert just one third down on a 95-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter. Price capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins to give Washington an 18-6 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Carey caught a 24-yard pass on a wheel route on fourth-and-10 to move the Wildcats to the Huskies 11-yard line. Two plays later, Denker ran around left end for a 7-yard touchdown to pull Arizona within a score.
Price connected on a 49-yard pass to Smith to quickly move Washington back into Arizona territory, and Sankey blasted into the end zone from a yard out to extend the Washington lead to 25-13.
“We went in the locker room and just talked about fixing a few things and going out and executing in the second half,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “It’s been a theme for us — coming out in the third quarter and playing good football and executing better offensively than we did in the first half and just adjusting. I thought we were able to do that.”
The Wildcats were driving again midway through the fourth quarter when Denker was intercepted by Marcus Peters on a poor throw into double coverage, causing Rodriguez to fume for the second time in the game, spiking his headset into the turf along the Arizona sideline.
“The effort seemed like it was pretty good, but the execution wasn’t there all day in certain areas,” Rodriguez said. “That was disappointing, because we thought our guys were ready to play. I thought they would handle the environment, the weather and all that. We just didn’t play well at times, and our guys understand that.”