B.J. Denker needed to get away. Clear his head.
The Arizona Wildcats quarterback, trying to create emotional distance from his tough night at Washington last weekend, went to the movies Monday. Alone. No phone. No social media. No message boards.
He saw Prisoners and Rush.
“Like a little loner, just hanging out by myself and zoned out,” he said.
It was a different kind of film he saw Sunday night, the disaster movie that was Arizona’s 31-13 loss at Washington. He had to relive that performance with the UA coaches, with the language flying around the meeting room easily meriting at least an R rating.
“Intense,” Denker said. “I don’t think we could have put cameras in there.”
It was exactly what Denker had expected. He was 14 of 35 for 119 yards, with two interceptions, in a driving rainstorm in Seattle. That’s the kind of stat line that causes coach Rich Rodriguez to issue a few #@!%^&s.
“In between all the yelling and shouting, he said, ‘I’m doing this because I feel like you could play so much better, I know you can play better,’” Denker said. “That is why he was making a point, making sure I don’t do it again.”
Denker isn’t in danger of losing his starting job because of the Washington game, but he’s advised to not push his luck Thursday at USC.
He said he would have preferred to get right back out there this weekend, although the extra time between games should be beneficial. Take a deep breath. Heed what quarterbacks coach Rod Smith is telling him: Don’t make the dog bigger than it is.
Although the Washington game was Denker’s fifth start, it was his first against a quality opponent. It was his first in a truly hostile environment. It was his first when the passing game needed to contribute, not just complement. He often looked panicked, not trusting what he was seeing, both leading to bad decisions.
The job now is to learn from it.
He’s not a rookie anymore.
Don’t make the dogs — or the Trojans — bigger than they are.
“Got some nerves, obviously,” he said about playing the Huskies.
“They weren’t just amazing. They weren’t, as coach said, the New England Patriots. I probably made them up to be bigger than they were, and that’s just a little bit of inexperience and a little nerves.”
Arizona is 117th nationally in passing (111.3 yards per game) among 123 FBS teams. The Wildcats have neither the personnel at quarterback nor receiver to be great through the air. Efficient. Rodriguez will settle for efficient.
Make the throws that can be made. Catch what can be caught. Connect on a just a couple of deep throws.
“He’s a smart guy,” Rodriguez said of Denker.
“He can make better decisions, both in the run and the pass game. That’s a thing we can correct in a hurry.”
In the meantime, Denker is staying off Twitter and avoiding other public critiques.
“I read them after the game and that was enough,” he said.
“That comes with the job, the territory. … I just want to get on the field and perform better individually and as a team and shut up some of the people who are saying some of the stuff.”
Will it be a disaster sequel or a comeback story? He’ll have to wait until Thursday to write the script.