Sunday, October 6, 2019

Tate strikes Colorado once more as Arizona moves to first place in the Pac-12 south

Photo Credit: Ron Cheney- USA TODAY Sports

By: Adam Chalifoux
Twitter: @KungFouxHustle

It is Khalil Tate's world and we are living in it.

Tate completed a career sweep of Colorado (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12 south) and threw for a new career-high 404 yards along the way on the way to a 35-30 road victory for Arizona (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12 south).

“He’s a gifted athlete and a great quarterback,” said Buffaloes junior inside linebacker, Nate Landman. “He took advantage of what we were in and they just made more plays than us at the end of the day.”

In his three career games against Colorado, Tate accumulated 365 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Through the air, Tate combined for 908 yards passing and nine passing touchdowns. Once these numbers are all added up this comes out to 1,273 total yards, and 13 total touchdowns.

As frustrating as Tate’s performance was to the Buffaloes, their self inflicted wounds were perhaps even worse. Colorado tallied eight penalties for a loss of 85 yards while the disciplined Wildcats only drew one flag for an offsides penalty that cost them five yards.

“Penalties,” said Colorado head coach, Mel Tucker, “Those are self-inflicted type of deals.”

Losing its second straight game at home stings for a Colorado team that was perhaps on the brink of breaking into the top 25 with a home win.

“We have a very dissapointed locker room,” said Tucker. “We have to give Arizona a lot of credit. They made more plays than we made. They executed more than we did.”

It was parents’ weekend at the University of Colorado and while many of the students attending college at this time were not alive the last time Colorado was a powerhouse, many of the older folks in the stands can still remember the days of Kordell Stewart and Rashaan Salaam. 

For legacies, there had to be a bit of nostalgia as Colorado and Arizona met as the only two teams in the Pac-12 south without a loss in conference.

As far as the game itself, this one had the makings of a high-scoring affair. Colorado entered the game ranked 117th in the FBS in total defense, allowing 466.5 yards per game while Arizona was slightly worse letting up and average of 473.3 yards to come in at 119th.

As the clock wound down to three minutes, it appeared that fans were in for a defensive battle; 7-6 Arizona. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate dropped back and was chased out of the pocket on third down; with not a lot to lose, he let it fly. Waiting in the secondary was Mikial Onu who read the play beautifully and watched the ball into his hands for the interception.

The following play, KD Nixon (who later left the game with a hand injury) took a double reverse and sent a deep ball into the hands of Dimitri Stanley for a 39-yard touchdown pass. 

Just like that, the flood gets opened right up. If there was a “please fasten your seatbelts” sign at Folsom Field, this would have been an appropriate time for it to go on. The ensuing Arizona drive began and ended with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Tate to Cedric Peterson.

Colorado was left with 1:40 in the first half, which proved to be enough time for Steven Montez to lead a two-minute drill to reclaim the lead. The Buffaloes were faced with a big decision to make with 11 seconds left in the half. Kick the field goal or try to get the 12 yards to make it to the end zone. While the plan was likely to get a quick pass up so there would still be enough time for a field goal, Arizona’s defensive line had other plans. 

The white jersey flooded into the backfield forcing Montez to scramble around the pocket and run time off the clock. After dancing around like Mick Jagger, Montez sent a zinger into the hands of Brady Russell for the final points of the half. 21 of the first half’s 34 points were scored in the final two minutes and 37 seconds.

At the halfway mark, each team had a few negatives and positives to reflect on. For Colorado, Montez had played great ball to that point; the senior quarterback was 18-of-25 passing for 174 yards, a stat that could have been even more impressive if not for a dropped 50-yard would-be touchdown pass to Daniel Arias that was dropped in the endzone. Colorado also hurt themselves in a big way by losing 65 yards on their six first-half penalties.

On the other hand, CU’s special teams unit was outstanding. Senior punter Alex Kinney pinned the Wildcats inside their own 10-yard line twice one of which punts led to the Onu interception and the subsequent score. 

Arizona had no penalties and showed flashes of brilliance by exposing the Buffaloes’ defense for big plays. Tate was on his way to another strong showing against Colorado.

The score continued to swing back and forth in the second half. Arizona struck first with a six-play, 65-yard drive that took only one minute and 47 seconds off the clock. Tate found Brian Casteel for the 33-yard score and the Wildcats reclaimed the lead off the point after attempt.

Montez and the Buffaloes’ offense responded with a swift drive of their own. On the third play of the drive, Montez hit Tony Brown deep for a 49-yard pass. The following play, Brown took a reverse 15 more yards to the endzone.

In the absence of star receiver, Laviska Shenault, Brown emerged as a formidable weapon for Colorado. Brown finished the game with 10 catches for 141 yards and 15 yards rushing off the touchdown that gave the Buffaloes a 27-21 lead in the third quarter.

Arizona found its way back in the endzone six plays later on the legs of Nathan Tillford. The six-play drive took 89 seconds off the game clock. 

Colorado was able to cap a 14-play, 72-yard drive with a Jame Stefanou field goal as the lead shifted for the ninth time.

After Tillford punched in his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon halfway through the final quarter, the Buffaloes were out of answers and the final score read 35-30, Wildcats.

“It is very big,” said Tillford. “It shows that we’re fighters, that we have a lot of heart.”

Tillford and the Arizona running backs were slowed down, rushing for only 83 yards combined. 

Arizona is now the last team in the Pac-12 south that has not suffered a conference loss. Both teams have tough tests on Oct. 12 as the Wildcats host the Washington Huskies, while the Buffaloes travel to Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks.