Mr. Dink and Dunk has turned into Mr. Pass and Run.
It was a do-it-all kind of night for Arizona senior quarterback B.J. Denker, who blew up Colorado’s defense both through the air and, even more so, on the ground. He and teammate Ka’Deem Carey proved to be a combustible mix for the Buffaloes, who simply could not stop the Wildcats in a 44-20 decision Saturday night in Boulder.
It took some time, but Arizona eventually ran away from Colorado to improve to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-12. Just one more victory and and the Wildcats will be bowl-eligible for the second consecutive season.
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For the most part, it was Denker racking up the yards and Carey turning them into touchdowns. Carey had one of his lowest yardage totals of the season at 119 but scored four touchdowns in the blowout.
Denker, meanwhile, rushed for a career-high 192 yards and passed for 262 while going 21 for 32 on a night he won’t soon forget.
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said his team’s missed tackles of Denker amounted to 200 yards of total offense.
“Must have missed him seven times,” MacIntyre said, adding “… disappointed we didn’t do a better job against Denker. He did a good job. He threw the ball better than I’ve ever seen him throw it. He came through. He did a great job.”
He’ll likely feel it in the coming days. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said Denker was a bit sore, but he was pleased with the senior’s effort. As was Denker.
“That’s just (about) getting more comfortable,” Denker said on Arizona’s postgame radio show. “I have some more games under my belt. Confidence is the key to success, especially at the quarterback position. I feel we are confident everywhere. …
“We’re clicking on offense and loving the way we are playing. We’re trying to go fast.”
Sometimes not fast enough for Rodriguez. But after disappointing performances in their last two road games, both losses, the Wildcats played with some attitude in the altitude. Arizona finished with 670 yards of total offense — the third-highest total in school history — with 405 of those coming on the ground.
The physical Wildcats finally took over in the final minutes of the first half, as Carey — who else? — scored his second touchdown of the night on a 7-yard run with 2:28 left in the second quarter and Denker followed with a 44-yard scoring pass to freshman wide receiver Nate Phillips to give Arizona a 24-13 lead.
And suddenly, the rout was on at what seemed like a head-swiveling pace. For a moment, it appeared Arizona couldn’t score enough, as a 27-13 lead was quickly cut to 27-20 by Colorado. But then, like they did all night with their quick-strike attack, the Wildcats gashed the Buffaloes defense, and just like that they’d reeled off 17 unanswered points to put the game away.
Big plays, on both sides of the ball, were the order of the night.
Arizona stopped Colorado on the 4-yard line when the lead was 34-20 late in the third quarter. Denker then hit senior Terrance Miller for a 43-yard completion to the 1-yard line on a fourth-and-2 play, setting up a Carey touchdown. The Buffaloes also were stuffed on a fake punt inside their own 20-yard line in the fourth quarter. Of course, the big plays went both ways, as Colorado tied it at 7-all in the first quarter on a 75-yard touchdown pass that comprised a one-play, 13-second drive.
But Arizona made a lot more plays, and on offense, Denker was the maestro.
“B.J. was pretty sharp,” Rodriguez said. “There are so many things we put on our quarterback that there’s going to be a dozen or more plays that we shake our heads … but (Denker) really competed and really ran well. He’s beat up and sore, but I thought all our guys ran pretty hard today.”
Denker must have in order to outrush Carey, who entered as the nation’s leading rusher with a per-game average of just over 160 yards.
“I didn’t know that,” Rodriguez said coyly.
Carey finished with 121 yards, with 97 of those coming on his 17 carries before the half. He has scored nine touchdowns against Colorado the past two seasons.
But it was Denker’s night, one he said was somewhat a result of the Buffaloes simply paying more attention to Carey than him. And by the time they paid attention … well, it was too late.
“He’s running the system (well) and he took off well,” Rodriguez said. “He’s really going to get teased about getting run down a few times. He’s not as fast as some of the other guys. But his eyes were in the right place for most of the game.”
Rodriguez said he’s not too comfortable running his 6-foot-3, 184-pound quarterback so many times, but “at the same time, we’ve got to do what we got to do to win.”
Mission accomplished, although the coach, of course, is never totally satisfied.
“We didn’t play our best,” Rodriguez said, “but we played well enough.”