TUCSON, Ariz. — Daniel Jenkins ran 91 yards for a touchdown, the third-longest rushing play in Arizona school history, and the Wildcats opened their season with a rainy 35-0 victory over Northern Arizona on Friday night.
B.J. Denker threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jenkins and ran 30 yards for another score. Moments after Denker left the game in the fourth quarter, backup Javelle Allen ran 61 yards for a TD.
Tra’Mayne Bondurant had two interceptions, returning one 21 yards for a touchdown.
Arizona All-America running back Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher last season, was suspended for the game “per team policy,” the school said. The punishment apparently stemmed from trouble the running back had during the offseason, including an arrest for an incident involving his girlfriend. The charges were later dropped.
Jenkins gained 139 yards in 12 attempts as Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez opened his second season in Tucson. Denker completed 9 of 13 passes for 87 yards and rushed for 71 yards in 13 carries.
Rodriguez had not announced a starting quarterback to replace the departed Matt Scott, but most assumed it would be Denker, and it was.
After the opening kickoff, the senior directed an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Denker completed both passes on the drive for 42 yards, including the TD toss to the wide-open Jenkins. Denker also rushed five times for 23 yards on the drive.
The rain began to fall a short time later and neither offense accomplished much until Jenkins, a 5-foot-9 senior, raced up the middle and outran the Lumberjacks 91 yards to the end zone to make it 14-0 with 5:32 left in the half.
The only longer TD runs in Arizona school history were 96 yards by Trung Canidate against San Diego State in 1997 and 94 by Nic Grigsby, also against Northern Arizona, in 2009.
On the first play of the second half, Kyren Poe’s pass was tipped by freshman linebacker Scooby Wright, then intercepted by Bondurant, who returned it 21 yards for a touchdown to put the Wildcats up 21-0. It was Bondurant’s second career interception return for a score.
Northern Arizona was forced to punt from its own end zone and Arizona took over at the Lumberjacks’ 48. A pass interference penalty set up Denker’s 30-yard touchdown dash. The quarterback was hit just before the goal line but made it into the end zone to put the Wildcats up 28-0 with 8:34 left in the quarter.
Andy Wilder missed field goal attempts of 42 and 45 yards for the Lumberjacks, a Football Championship Subdivision school with 18 starters back from last season’s 8-3 Big Sky Conference team. Jake Smith missed a 26-yard attempt for Arizona.
Poe completed his first 10 passes for Northern Arizona and finished 21 of 36 for 176 yards. He was intercepted three times, all in the third quarter.
Zach Bauman finished with 71 yards in 21 carries. He needs 48 yards to become Northern Arizona’s career rushing leader.