Notebook: On Tate's Heisman Chances, AP Poll, and Bowling Season
The month of October was a great one for Arizona football, to say the least, and they ended the month by knocking off No. 15 Washington State in arguably the school’s biggest win of the year. The Wildcats finished the month with a perfect 4-0 record, all wins coming in conference play.
The 58-37 victory over the Cougars keeps Arizona at second place in the Pac-12 South standings with a 4-1 conference record, but more importantly it means the Wildcats are bowl eligible for the first time since the 2015 season as they are now 6-2 overall.
Arizona also returns to the AP Top 25 poll and are ranked No. 23. It is the first time the ‘Cats have been ranked inside the top 25 since week four of the 2015 season.
Here are the other noteworthy takeaways and observations from the victory against Washington State:
Khalil Tate in Heisman conversation?
Tate Train, KaBoom Tate, The Big Cat, whatever you want to call him. Either way, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate has been in a league of his own since being inserted into the lineup on Oct. 7 and his name is now starting to pop up in the Heisman conversations.
Against Washington State, the sophomore quarterback accumulated 421-yards of total offense and three total touchdowns. Tate threw for 275-yards and two touchdowns on 10 of 17 passing while racking up 146-yards and a touchdown on the ground.
In the month of October, Tate ran for 840-yards and here’s the kicker: that’s the most rushing yards by any player in a Power Five Conference in 10 years during October, according to ESPN Stats & Info. As if that weren’t enough, Tate now qualifies for the statistical leader categories and he ranks first in NCAA Division I in rushing yards per carry (13.42) and third in rushing yards per game (154.3). His right arm has also been impressive as Tate is now the Pac-12 leader in pass efficiency (187.5).
Tate is not close to being the Heisman front runner, rather he seems to be among the top five or six candidates as is Stanford's Bryce Love. Another mesmerizing performance this week and Tate could have serious consideration.
The “little squirrel” breaks loose
J.J. Taylor finally had the game the breakout game that many people were expecting from the electrifying sophomore running back.
Taylor put up 152-yards on the ground on just 15 carries and ripped off runs of 62 and 72-yards, the latter of which resulted in a touchdown.
“The dude is electric,” tight end Jamie Nunley said. "You think he’s going to be tackled for a loss and I don’t know how he gets out of it. He’s a little squirrel.”
It remains to be seen if the nickname will stick, but with Nick Wilson banged up with an injury, Taylor’s display of jukes and bursts of speed played a large role in Arizona’s win.
Fans dressed as empty seats
It's no secret this year that the attendance at Arizona Stadium has been less than optimal and that trend continued on Saturday. On homecoming weekend, with Arizona on a three-game winning streak and a top 25 school coming to Tucson, one would assume that the stadium would be filled to the brim.
Instead just the opposite occurred. as less than 43,000 fans made it out to support of one the best teams in the Pac-12. Either that or fans decided to dress up as empty seats for halloween, but it’s not a likely scenario. Matters were made worse when a few hundred fans made their way to the exits at halftime and into the second half.
The ZonaZoo did have its best showing of the year but the section still had plenty of open seats.
Bend but don’t break
The phrase above seems to be the theme for the Arizona defense over the last few weeks. The defense has given up chunk plays throughout the game, but they tighten up in the most crucial spots and the same turned out to be true against Washington State.
The Wildcats surrendered a grand total of 642-yards of offense to the Cougars, but only allowed that to be turned into 37 points. 602 of those yards were through the air; 93 from Luke Faulk and the other 509 from backup Tyler Hilinski who entered the game in the second quarter after Faulk was benched.
However, Arizona forced six turnovers (four interceptions and two fumble recoveries), one of which was a pick-six from linebacker Colin Schooler in the second half.
“I peeked up at the scoreboard, at the jumbotron, and I wasn’t the only guy on the screen,” Schooler said. “So I knew he was coming, and luckily I got in the end zone.”
L.A. showdown looms
Arizona will now travel to Los Angeles, Calif. to take on the No. 17 ranked USC Trojans in a battle for supremacy in the Pac-12 South. USC is perched at first place in the standings with a 7-2 overall record, 5-1 in the Pac-12, while Arizona is breathing down the Trojans’ neck.
The winner of this game will control its destiny in the Pac-12 South.
Game time is set for 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4 and will be broadcast on ESPN.