TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez doesn’t plan on changing his quarterback, despite B.J. Denker’s poor performance.
Rodriguez said senior starter Denker responded well to Sunday’s short practice, but the key to his decision was the long meeting the team held between the quarterbacks, receivers and coaches.
“He’s always responded very well not only to the criticisms or the corrections we need to make, but also to his own expectations,” Rodriguez said on the weekly Pac-12 Conference’s teleconference call. “He responded in August when we were on him, and I expect the same thing out of him. He’s a competitive guy. He’ll bounce back. And not just him, the other guys, too.”
Denker played poorly in Saturday’s 31-13 loss at Washington, Arizona’s first test of the season against upper-level competition. He completed just 14 of 35 passes for 119 yards, with two interceptions.
Denker called it a learning experience and a fixable one.
“When we watched the film they didn’t really beat us,” Denker said. “They weren’t so wonderful and magnificent that they just dominate us. We did a lot ourselves, especially me. That’s a good thing and bad thing. Everything we did wrong we can fix.”
There needs to be a big learning curve before Arizona (3-1) faces Southern California (3-2) next Thursday in Los Angeles. Arizona ranks 117th in passing with just 111.3 yards per game. Most of Denker’s completions have been quick and short passes. With no vertical passing threat, opposing defenses have loaded up against Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher last year.
Denker ranks last by a wide margin among Pac-12 quarterbacks in passing efficiency with a rating of 94.4. No other starter has a rating below 128.5. But he has made some plays with his feet, rushing for 70 yards per game and six touchdowns.
Denker was replaced by redshirt freshman Javelle Allen late in the fourth quarter on Saturday night. Rodriguez said Allen has closed the gap in recent weeks, but Denker gives Arizona the best chance to win.
“I’m anxious to see not only B.J. but the guys who made mistakes, knowing that we can be better in getting things corrected,” Rodriguez said.
When told there’s a sports axiom of you learn more in losses than you do in defeat, Denker agreed and said, “but you don’t want to have that many learning experiences and that many losses. Football is a game of learning. (There’s) so much you can learn from film. We didn’t give up. We didn’t back down. We didn’t turn on each other, and that’s a big thing.”
Senior linebacker Jake Fischer is expected to play next week against Southern California, Rodriguez said. Fischer suffered a high ankle sprain late in the fourth quarter against Washington. Rodriguez said he wasn’t sure if Fischer would practice the rest of the week but: “we’re optimistic he’ll be OK.”