Friday, October 4, 2019

Wildcats and Buffaloes collide with first place in the Pac-12 south at stake

Photo Credit- Kelly Presnell- Arizona Daily Star

By: Adam Chalifoux
Twitter: @kungfouxhustle

Not many people could have predicted that Arizona and Colorado would come into their week six matchup as the only undefeated teams left in the Pac-12 south going into the season. 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game is the fact that the game is Saturday (2:30 pm MT, Pac-12 Network) and fans are still not certain who they will see play. As a sophomore, Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate broke the record for rushing yards in a game by thrashing and slashing through the Buffaloes defense for an FBS-record 327 yards rushing yards on just 14 carries in a 45-42 win on Oct. 7, 2017. 

Fast forward to the present day and the senior signal caller is a game-time decision (ankle, hamstring) for the Wildcats’ battle in Boulder with the Buffaloes.

“He can do it all and you don’t see those guys every week,” said Colorado coach Mel Tucker. “So, he is definitely one of those guys you call a game wrecker, he is one of those guys who can wreck the game… he is one of those guys who can take over the game.”

On the other side is running back Laviska Shenault, perhaps the conference’s best player. The 6-foot-2, 224-pound receiver that runs like a running back is also listed as a game-time decision. In his absence 13 days ago, senior Tony Brown set career highs in catches (nine), receiving yards (150), and touchdowns (three), to help lead them to a 34-31 victory in the Buffaloes’ game against the Arizona State Sun Devils on Sept. 21.

Shenault is joined on the injury list by Mustafa Johnson and Mikial Onu. Johnson, the anchor of the defensive was the Pac-12’s leader in sacks when he went down against the Sun Devils two Saturdays ago. Now, after a bye week to heal up, Johnson is listed as doubtful at last look. Onu suffered a leg injury against ASU, but was able to return to the game which bodes well for his status on Saturday. 

If Tate is able to play, Johnson’s presence in the pass rush could be a make or break factor a Buffaloes team that is beginning to receive AP poll votes after taking down two top 25 opponents early in the season. If Tate is out however, the Wildcats will be an entirely different beast. 

Grant Gunnell has been extremely impressive in his limited time at the helm of Arizona’s high-powered offense. The freshman out of Woodlands, TX, completed 38-of-55 passes for 503 yards and four touchdowns. 352 yards and one of those scores came against the UCLA Bruins on Sept. 28, a performance that earned him the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Week honors. 

“It requires extra work, because are not sure who we are gonna see,” said Tucker. 

But the Buffaloes say that they are prepared for either scenario. 

“A good part of the game plan is comprehensive for both quarterbacks, but here are some things that will be unique depending on who is playing,” said Tucker.

While it is hard to make any confident predictions without full knowledge of who will be available, the two high powered offenses could very well light up the scoreboards on Saturday afternoon.