USC vs Arizona: Previewing the Wildcats Offense


Sep 28, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Arizona Wildcats running back Ka

The Arizona Wildcats enter Thursday’s contest with USC coming off a bye week during which they looked to recover from a 31-13 loss to Washington much like the Trojans have been tasked with moving past the 62-41 loss to Arizona State. In fact, the Wildcats and Trojans enter this potentially pivotal game with plenty of similarities, especially on offense. Namely, focus on a strong running game while breaking in a new quarterback.

Arizona’s offensive attack relies heavily on junior running back Ka’Deem Carey, who earned All-American honors and led the NCAA in rushing last season. Carey has logged 431 yards and five touchdowns in three games as the Wildcats primary offensive weapon. He comes into the game against USC with seven straight 100-yard rushing games and 12 straight games with a rushing touchdown.

Carey isn’t the only threat the Wildcats have in the rushing game though. Senior quarterback B.J. Denker has picked up where Matt Scott left off in terms of making plays with his legs in his first season as Arizona’s starter. Denker has picked up 277 yards rushing this season along with six touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns came on runs of 30 or more yards, so his big play ability on the ground cannot be ignored.

Sep 28, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback B.J. Denker (7) passes against the Washington Huskies during the first quarter at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

However, that big play ability seems lacking in the passing game. The Wildcats have only produced 18 passing plays of ten or more yards, which puts them worst in the Pac-12 by far. Only four of those plays went for longer than 20-yards. Denker himself ranks 12th in the conference in passing yards per game and his measly two passing touchdowns puts him on par with Washington State’s Austin Apodaca, the Huskies back up QB. In the loss to Washington, Denker completed just 40% of his passes and threw two interceptions.

To be fair, those two interceptions were his only turnovers of the season, as Arizona has excelled at protecting the football in 2013.  The four total they have given away this season is first in the Pac-12 and fifth in the country.

In terms of the receiving corp, the Wildcats were pleased to see sophomore David Richards return after missing the first three games with a foot injury. Though he didn’t catch a pass against the Huskies, the 6-4, 214 pound Richards is expected to play a big role in the Arizona passing game as the top returning wide out from last year’s Wildcats in the absence of Austin Hill, who was the second-leading receiver in the Pac-12 last season but tore his ACL in the spring.

Projected starting line up:

WR #16 Garic WhartonTE #18 Terrence MillerLT #68 Mickey BaucusLG #61 Cayman BundageC #56 Steven GurrolaRG #62 Chris PuttonRT #73 Fabbians EbbeleSLOT #30 Johnny Jacksonor #6 Nate PhillipsWR #10 Samajie GrantRB #25 Ka’Deem CareyQB #7 B.J. Denker.