Arizona defeated Utah on Saturday. Read on for the good and bad that we can take away from the contest.
It was tough to envision Arizona
making a bowl game if it lost on Saturday night. The team would have had zero momentum heading into the second half of the year, and with an uninspiring 3-3 record, things could've gotten ugly during November.
The Wildcats responded in every way possible against Utah, scratching out a huge 35-24 win.
Ka'Deem Carey continued his quest towards being the greatest offensive player in Arizona history. He carried the ball a school-record 40 times against a quality Utes defense and gashed them for 236 yards. Add in his game clinching 44-yard touchdown run late and it's tough to adequately put just how good Ka'Deem was.
B.J. Denker also continued to play much better. Maybe it was the loud wakeup call he got up in Washington or maybe it's just taken him some time to get a grip on the offense, but there was a lot to like about the way the senior quarterback played.
Denker completed 18-of-30 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown, and he carried the ball 13 times for 51 yards and two more scores.
For a guy who was seemingly a bad play or two away from losing his starting job a few weeks ago, it's been quite a turnaround.
On the defensive side of the ball, UA continued to do a lot of things well.
Sione Tuihalamaka and Reggie Gilbert were named the Defensive Players of the Week by the coaching staff, and they were absolutely deserved.
Tuihalamaka stuffed the run all night long, helping the Wildcats hold Utah to just 4.1 yards per carry. Gilbert came up with a big sack and made life awfully tough for the Utes' offensive line. Even Justin Washington made a couple of key plays in the second half.
Marquis Flowers' pick-six in the second quarter was clearly a momentum-shifter, and Shaquille Richardson did a nice job running down an errant pass that could've gone for big yardage for Utah.
For a unit that was so terrible in 2012, Jeff Casteel's defense has improved by leaps and bounds this fall.
The biggest issue on Saturday night was one that's been a problem all year long: special teams play.
Jake Smith missed another extra-point attempt, and as Utah made their push in the second half, it loomed large on the scoreboard. Johnny Jackson muffed a punt return and gave Utah terrific field position, which led to a touchdown.
Fortunately for Arizona, these mistakes didn't lead to a loss. But as the Wildcats hit the road in the next couple weeks, they'll need to clean things up if they hope to keep winning.