Arizona Wildcats Football: The 6 Best Moments of 2013

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2013

Arizona Wildcats Football: The 6 Best Moments of 2013

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Arizona's 2013 regular season ended on a sour note in late November when it lost 58-21 at rival Arizona State. Since then, the Wildcats have spent most of their time preparing for the matchup with Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, which is set for Dec. 31 in Shreveport, La.

    The one-month layoff has left plenty of time to look back on what has been, for the most part, a successful season in the second year under coach Rich Rodriguez. It was filled with plenty of major achievements, memorable results and unforgettable occasions.

    More could happen in the bowl game, but for now, here's our look at just a few of the top moments from Arizona's 2013 campaign.

Daniel Jenkins' 91-Yard Touchdown Run

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    The season opener was one filled with hope and promise for Arizona, which was coming off an 8-5 campaign in 2012 and looked to be as good, if not better, this time around.

    The visit from FCS foe Northern Arizona served as the perfect tuneup for the Wildcats, though they'd have to manage without standout running back Ka'Deem Carey. Carey, who had led the nation in rushing the year before, was serving a one-game suspension for a violation of team policies related to legal troubles and other off-field incidents.

    That meant senior Daniel Jenkins got the start in the backfield, and he made the most of his first-ever start.

    Jenkins rushed for a career-high 139 yards on just 12 carries, including a 91-yard touchdown run that paced a 35-0 win over NAU.

    Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez told reporters after the game that Jenkins "deserved this performance" after working hard for five years with the Wildcats, along with a brief stretch when he transferred to Washington State before coming back to Tucson.

Ka'Deem Carey's Season Debut

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    Having sat out in the win over NAU to start the season, Ka'Deem Carey had to wait until the second quarter of Arizona's game at UNLV before finally seeing his first action of 2013.

    Despite the delay, however, he didn't waste time reminding Wildcats fans of what he did the previous season.

    Carey took his first handoff 58 yards for a touchdown. He scored another TD a few minutes later and finished the game with 171 yards on 16 carries in Arizona's 58-13 blowout win.

B.J. Denker's Breakout Performance vs. USC

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    While the overall result of Arizona's trip to USC in mid-October was a 38-31 loss, the game did feature a silver lining in the form of quarterback B.J. Denker's best performance to date.

    Denker threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns, showing off both an ability to hit the deep pass as well as a funky jump throw that kept the Wildcats in the game despite numerous breakdowns on defense.

    TucsonCitizen.com's Anthony Gimino said that Denker's effort showed Arizona had "raised the ceiling on the passing game, the team’s biggest question" after the Wildcats had thrown for just 455 yards and two touchdowns in their previous four games.

    Though he didn't have another game nearly as prolific again, he did finish the year with a respectable 2,241 passing yards and 14 touchdowns along with 12 rushing TDs.

Becoming Bowl-Eligible

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    Arizona was 3-2 before it put together its best three-game stretch of the season, beating Utah at home and then winning at Colorado and California to reach the magical six-win plateau and become bowl-eligible.

    Though the Wildcats' 6-2 mark at that point in the season wasn't that much of a surprise, considering their schedule, getting to the six-win threshold was significant for the program because it marked the first time the school would be going to a bowl in each of the first two seasons under a new coach.

Ka'Deem Carey Breaks School Rushing Record

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    Following his 1,929-yard effort in 2012, which led the nation, Ka'Deem Carey entered the 2013 season on pace to become Arizona's career rushing leader if similar production continued for the junior.

    He surpassed Trung Canidate's mark of 3,824 yards in epic fashion, rushing for 206 yards on a school-record 48 carries in Arizona's 42-16 upset win over Oregon in late November.

    Carey added additional records to his resume during that game, scoring four touchdowns to top Art Luppino's school-career mark of 48 TDs.

    Though he was already well-known locally and within the Pac-12, the game helped put Carey on the national map. While he didn't end up getting an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, finishing just 10th in the voting, he was runner-up for the Doak Walker Award and saw his draft stock rise following the Oregon game, according to Bleacher Report's Chris Roling.

    Carey has yet to announce whether he'll return for his senior year at Arizona or opt to enter the NFL draft a year early.

Upset Win over Oregon

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    The records that Ka'Deem Carey smashed during Arizona's home finale in November weren't the only notable things to happen that afternoon, especially when they came during a monumental upset against one of the nation's top teams.

    The Wildcats crushed fifth-ranked Oregon 42-16, dominating in all facets of the game and setting the tone from the opening snaps. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota was intercepted on the first play from scrimmage, having a pass tipped near the sidelines and into the hands of linebacker Scooby Wright, and Arizona never looked back.

    The crowd flooded onto the field after the game ended, with players posing for pictures with fans who shared in the moment. It marked the latest of many upset wins Arizona has had at home over the last decade, including one over Oklahoma State in 2012.