Colorado prepared for Arizona’s Tate second time around
TUCSON, Ariz. — Colorado went into its game against Arizona last season game planning to stop quarterback Brandon Dawkins.
When Dawkins went down after a late hit out of bounds, Khalil Tate ran all over the Buffaloes for 327 yards, an FBS record by a quarterback.
Tate has been hampered by an ankle injury this season and hasn’t put up the same prodigious numbers he did last season, but Colorado knows all too well what he’s capable of once he gets rolling.
The Buffaloes (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) get a second shot at Tate and the Wildcats (4-5, 3-3) on Friday night in Tucson.
“We all vividly remember him running wild against us, there’s no doubt about it,” Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre said. “When I turned on the tape and saw No. 14, I definitely had nightmares. He’s a great athlete.”
Tate injured his left ankle in the second game of this season, limiting his mobility before he sat out against UCLA two weeks ago.
The time off seemed to help.
Tate moved well last week against No. 19 Oregon, using his legs to extend plays and orchestrate Arizona’s offense. The junior threw for 189 yards and three touchdowns on 19-of-33 passing in the 44-15 rout of the Ducks.
“We had some underneath things that he can do a better job of. He understands that, we understand that,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said. “His percentage was up this week, really, because of the screen game and some things that were designed to get him into rhythm.”
A few more things to look for when Arizona hosts Colorado on Friday night:
REELING BUFFALOES: Colorado was one of the Pac-12’s biggest surprises early in the season after opening with five straight wins. The Buffaloes have gone into a tailspin since then, losing three straight. The Buffaloes lost 41-31 to Oregon State last week after blowing a 28-point lead, prompting a players-only meeting. “There were a lot of great things said in that meeting,” CU quarterback Steven Montez said. “There were a lot of good things said from older guys all the way to younger guys. Younger guys stepped up and said what they thought was going on, how we can fix it and how we can get back on track.”
TAMING TAYLOR: Colorado might not want to put all its focus on stopping Tate the way J.J. Taylor has been running the ball. Taylor ran for 212 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon last week, joining Ka’Deem Carey and Tate as the only Arizona players to ever have two games with at least 210 yards rushing. Taylor is fourth nationally with 1,029 yards and has scored six touchdowns.
SHENAULT’S STATUS: Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. has missed the past two games with a toe injury and is questionable for Friday’s game. The Buffaloes could certainly use him. Despite missing time, Shenault still leads the Pac-12 with 60 catches for 780 yards and has scored six TDs. The sophomore also leads the nation with 130 yards per game, eight more than the next closest player.
THIRD DOWN DOMINANCE: A big key in Arizona’s win over Oregon last week was its ability to shut down the Ducks on third down. The Wildcats created numerous third-and-long situations for the Ducks, limiting their options. Arizona made the most of the longshot situations, holding Oregon to 3 for 16 on third downs. “Our defense got off the field on third down,” Sumlin said. “I thought our tackling was the best it’s been during the year, really didn’t give up a bunch of big plays.”
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.