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Saturday, August 31, 2013
Defense, big plays propel Arizona

By Kevin Gemmell

While Arizona’s offense didn’t resemble the explosive machine that it did last year in its season opener, the Wildcats did more than enough to get their first win against an overmatched Northern Arizona squad.

Taking advantage of a couple of big plays on offense and three interceptions from the defense, the Wildcats downed the Lumberjacks 35-0 Friday night in Tucscon.

Playing without All-American running back Ka'Deem Carey, the nation's leading rusher from last season who was serving a one-game suspension stemming from his offseason issues, the Wildcats offense was hit-and-miss with B.J. Denker taking over for Matt Scott. At times, Denker looked sharp on his reads. Other times, the entire offense looked like a work in progress.

After marching 75 yards on 10 plays on its opening drive, capping it with a beautifully designed 11-yard touchdown pass from Denker to Daniel Jenkins, the Arizona offense stalled for the majority of the first half. A string of three straight punts, including back-to-back three-and-outs, was snapped when Jenkins broke loose on a 91-yard touchdown run -- the third-longest run from scrimmage in Arizona history. He finished with 139 yards and a score on 12 carries.

Denker added a 30-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant returned the first of his two interceptions 23 yards for a touchdown early in the second half.

The Wildcats, who were second in the Pac-12 last year in total offense with 526.2 yards per game, totaled 393 yards, with 306 of them coming on the ground. Denker was an efficient 9 of 13 for 87 yards and a touchdown, but missed on a few deep opportunities. It's worth noting that the Arizona offense turned in a turnover-free performance.

Javelle Allen spelled Denker late in the game and rushed for a 61-yard touchdown on his third play.

Defensively, the Wildcats pitched the shutout by intercepting NAU’s Kyren Poe three times -- two by Bondurant and another from freshman Devin Holiday. NAU’s Andy Wilder also missed a pair of field goals.

“I thought defensively we played pretty well for the most part,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez told the Pac-12 Network after the game. “We missed a few tackles. They did a good job of shortening the game. We’ve got a lot of things to fix, certainly some execution issues on offense ... From the first game, you can learn a lot. We’re going to learn a lot from this game.”