SHREVEPORT, La. — B.J. Denker’s career at Arizona is officially over. His life in football — he’s hoping — still has several chapters left.
Denker played the final game of his UA career Tuesday in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, throwing for 275 yards and two touchdowns and adding 51 rushing yards and another score.
He was named the offensive MVP of a game that Arizona won 42-19. In doing so, Denker ensured that he went out on top after a season of highs and lows.
It’s very possible — likely, even — that it was the last football game he’ll ever play.
“It’s a little sad,” Denker said. “I’ve been playing it since I was 5. I don’t know anything else besides football. We’ll see what’s in the next chapter of my life. I’ll definitely be doing something in football, whether that’s playing anywhere that will take me, or coaching.
“I’m not leaving this game; I love it too much.”
UA coach Rich Rodriguez may not have a graduate assistant spot open on his staff at the moment, but he’s hoping his signal-caller goes into coaching.
He thinks Denker will make a great one.
“You talk about a guy that understands the game and has a passion for it,” Rodriguez said. “I think the reason B.J. has advanced so much in his two years with us is his love for football. Thankfully he (loved it) because I thought he was as productive as just about any quarterback in the country the last half of the year.”
Rodriguez has a point.
Denker finished the season with 2,516 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He just missed out on becoming the ninth quarterback from a BCS conference to throw for more than 2,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 in a single season. He finished the year with 949 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
After a slow start, the senior from Torrance, Calif., finished strong, turning in two of his best performances over the UA’s final three games of the season.
Against No. 5 Oregon, Denker completed 19 of 22 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 102 yards.
After struggling against Arizona State in the regular-season finale, Denker responded with a strong performance in the bowl game.
His showings against Oregon and Boston College were a far cry from what he did in September.
Denker didn’t throw for more than 158 yards in any of his first four games and had two touchdowns to go with two interceptions.
But as the season went on, Denker said his confidence increased and his play improved. That eventually led to games like Oregon and Boston College.
“Experience and confidence were the two big things for me,” he said. “Going into the season, I had never started before. I’m still just a second-year guy. I trusted myself and trusted my coaches and my teammates. I got better every single game, and I think that was the key for me.”
Added receiver Nate Phillips, “I think for B.J., it was just his confidence. He’s a great athlete and he can do a lot of things a lot of other quarterbacks can’t. So for B.J., once he settled in and he knew his ability and he played up to that ability, it was over.”
In the end, Denker’s 949 rushing yards were the sixth-most by a quarterback this season and the third-highest by a signal-caller from a BCS conference. His 13 rushing scores on the year were tied for fourth-most by a quarterback.
Denker also improved through the air. Over his last nine games, he threw for 200 or more yards in five games and threw 14 touchdowns to five interceptions.
Rodriguez saw a difference in Denker around the fourth game of the season against USC, when his quarterback stopped thinking so much and started reacting to what was going on around him.
“To me, I’ve done this so long with quarterbacks, I know a quarterback gets it when he reacts like B.J. and he’s seeing everything good and bad,” Rodriguez said.