Cast-off as fodder for the big guns in the Pac-12, Arizona has come from nowhere to control their destiny in the Pac-12 South.
To say no one had any faith in the Arizona Wildcats football team, outside of a select few in Tuscon, wouldn’t be an exaggeration. In fact, this was the breakdown of the preseason media poll for the 2017 Pac-12 standings by division.
So how exactly has Arizona managed to pull a complete 180 from last season where they finished 3-9 and in the cellar of the Pac-12 South, to 6-2 this season with a win over previously #15 Washington State and a chance to control their own destiny with a win over USC this Saturday? It all starts with Khalil Tate.
Khalil Tate began this season holding the whiteboard on the sidelines, behind Brandon Dawkins in the pecking order. However, a 2-2 start and uninspiring quarterback play left head coach Rich Rodriguez searching for something to get his offense going. And did he ever find it. Dawkins was benched after throwing three interceptions in a 30-24 loss to Utah, giving Tate the benefit of a bye week to get in first team reps. In his first start against Colorado at the beginning of this month, Tate already began shattering records.
Khalil Tate (327 yards) and Phillip Lindsay (281 yards) set the FBS record for most combined rushing yards by opposing players at 608 pic.twitter.com/m8N4Xug64E— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 8, 2017
Khalil Tate set the FBS single-game rushing record for a QB with his 327 yards today https://t.co/wAddO1gRZ3— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 8, 2017
His raw QBR in that game? A perfect 100 after going 12-for-13 for 154 yards and a touchdown. Tate followed that insane performance up with wins over UCLA, Cal and Washington State, and the nation began to take note.
Khalil Tate is the first FBS QB to record at least 200 rush yards in consecutive games since Chris McCoy for Navy in 1997 pic.twitter.com/PPULOyx51D— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 15, 2017
Arizona’s Khalil Tate has 668 rushing yards and 7 TD on 35 carries in the last 9 quarters.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 22, 2017
He’s a quarterback. pic.twitter.com/rrrdGlznQg
Arizona’s Khalil Tate has a 70-yard run in 4 straight games, tied for the longest streak in FBS in the past 10 seasons.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 29, 2017
In the 3+ games since Khalil Tate became Arizona’s starting QB, he has 842 rushing yards on 58 carries.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 29, 2017
That’s 14.5 yards per rush.
I’m gonna go as Khalil Tate for Halloween. I’m just gonna steal candy from kids and run like hell and nobody will ever catch me.— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) October 29, 2017
Somehow, in a conference with quarterbacks like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Jake Browning, and Luke Falk, arguably the most promising Heisman candidate is none other than Khalil Tate.
Saquon Barkley, Heisman favorite:— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) October 25, 2017
7 games started
2 games started!@ArizonaFBall
Any time he takes the field, he is simply the most athletic player out there, making defenses look like they are wading through quicksand.
The minute you think you have him covered up, he doesn’t even have the ball, and the equally electric J.J. Taylor is sprinting free to the end zone.
And if you think you can simply stack the box against Tate, you might want to reconsider.
The resurgence of the Arizona offense with Tate at the controls has been nothing short of miraculous. They’ve score 45+ points in all four games, something they managed a grand total of twice all of last season.
There is no doubt that Arizona will only be able to go as far as Khalil Tate can drag them, and he probably shouldn’t be expecting any favors from the Wildcat defense. Even though Tate has put up 195 points in the four games he has been leading the offense, the defense has given up 153 over that same period. Last season, Arizona was 10th worst in the nation, ceding 38.3 points per game, and although that number has shrunk to 30.3 points per game against this season, it is still a cause for concern. In fact, they have not held a Pac-12 opponent to under 30 points since Week 6 of the 2015 season.
If at the end of the season, Arizona finds itself atop the Pac-12 South, they might have the schedule-makers to thank. The two teams Arizona does not play this season from the Pac-12 North? Washington and Stanford. A win this coming Saturday down in the Coliseum would mean the Wildcats would only need to win two of their final three games against Oregon State, Oregon, and Arizona State in order to come from nowhere to win the Pac-12 South. And if they do win this Saturday, you can bet it will be in large part due to their backfield magician, Khalil Tate.
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