The Arizona Wildcats entered Saturday’s game against the Utah Utes looking at a three-game stretch that would likely decide their postseason future.
Consider the first test passed.
The Wildcats (3-2, 1-2 Pac-12) held on for a 35-24 win in Tucson behind another monster game from running back Ka’Deem Carey and opportunistic performance by the defense.
The UA offense racked up 468 total yards of offense — 300 of which came on the ground — while holding Utah to 329 total yards. The Wildcats converted on 12 of 20 third downs while holding Utah to a 5-of-18 conversion rate.
Carey was his typical hard-running self, picking up 236 yards and a score on a school-record 40 carries.
Quarterback B.J. Denker played one of his better games of the season, completing 18-of-30 passes for 168 yards and a score, and giving the Wildcats’ offense a level of balance it had yet to achieve this season.
The Arizona receiving corps made a few downfield plays, and the Wildcats’ defense held its own, recording three sacks and forcing 2 turnovers, including a pick-six by linebacker Marquis Flowers to put the UA ahead 14-7.
Carey lost a fumble at the Arizona 39-yard line with 7:05 to play, giving Utah a chance to take the lead. But Arizona’s defense held and Utah kicker Andy Phillips missed a 40-yard field goal — his second miss of the game after entering the contest perfect on the season.
But in an all-around well-played game, the Wildcats still had a few other costly miscues. The Arizona defense allowed a number of gashing plays, including a flea-flicker that went 55 yards for a touchdown, and punt returner Johnny Jackson muffed a pair of kicks — one of which was recovered by Utah.
Jake Smith also had an extra point blocked, though the Wildcats made up for that by later converting on a two-point conversion.
Arizona travels to Colorado to take on the Buffaloes Saturday at 5 p.m.