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Tates prior experience vital 2nd time around

Khalil Tate stuggled in his first start against USC a year ago, this time he’s getting his first start of the season against UCLA. Will it be any better?

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 Sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate (14) during the Wildcats 45-42 win over the Colorado Buffaloes on Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo. on Oct. 7. (needs second sentence) 

Khalil Tate may have just saved Arizona football. In a very Drew Bledsoe to Tom Brady like situation, Tate came in for a banged up Brandon Dawkins during Saturday nights game at Colorado and never looked back.

His performance was legendary, it was record breaking and was a jolt that the football program needed in the worst way. Tate didn’t simply save the season for the Wildcats, he may have just saved head coach Rich Rodriguez’s job. Did he energize the fan base? That remains to be seen, but the preliminary reports on social media suggest he may have. Even big names like LeBron James were blown away by Tate and his 327 rushing yards, the most of any quarterback in a single game in NCAA history.

There was a certain told you so mantra during the game on Twitter from those who have been clamoring for Tate to get his shot. He did, and they did, feeling justified in their belief that Tate was indeed the missing link to fix a program trending in the wrong direction. 

But the glamorous life of the backup quarterback can be short lived. If anyone knows that it is indeed Tate. Just a year ago, Tate was thrust into the starting lineup and produced one of the more anemic performances in some time, going 7-for-18 for 58 yards and one interception against USC. A USC team that had a redshirt sophomore by the name of Sam Darnold pick apart the UA defense. Tate would be benched in favor of a tight end on the way to a 48-14 beat down from the soon-to-be Rose Bowl Champions.

“I’m more confident, more understandable about the game and more knowledgeable,” Tate said during post-game comments on Arizona Athletics website in response to what is different this year versus his lone start against USC a year ago.

The scenarios couldn’t play out any better for the sophomore. Again he will be thrust into the starting lineup and again he will face a team from Southern California, and again he will face a top quarterback prospect in UCLA’s Josh Rosen. Yes, Josh Rosen, the quarterback that single-handedly started the downfall of the Wildcats in front of a national television audience on ABC two years ago. ESPN College Gameday was here, the millions of people around the country were here, the only thing that wasn’t were Tate and the entire UA team. It was a bludgeoning, and appeared to be the beginning of the end before this past Saturday.

“Certainly our guys know how important this game is coming up,” Rodriguez said. “We haven’t played well, really in any year against these guys (UCLA), and I think our guys are anxious to put on a better performance against a really talented UCLA team.”

Tate wasn’t long on words after the game. Short answers, quick and simple, in many ways like his performance. Tate exploited Colorado’s penchant for being out of position with quick bursts through the hole, and a straight to the point sprint to the end zone. 

Tate has a chance to make Arizona relevant once again. No better opportunity than now to return the hope back to the Wildcat faithful. No one had ever done what Tate did Saturday night in Boulder. The Altitude, the opposing crowd and not even a recovered Dawkins could stop the onslaught that was coming the Buffaloes way.

Tate didn’t do it all on his own, an important note to make. The blocking from the offensive line was the best it had been all season and the blocking from wide receivers was even better. On several runs receiver Tony Ellison can be seen blocking the same man yards down the field to give his quarterback an opportunity to score. On Tate’s longest run, 75 yards, multiple receivers were downfield as he slowed down to set up blocks. J.J. Taylor, who earlier in the play was shoved by Tate to provide leverage and jump to the outside, can be seen sprinting down past Tate only to slow up and get in the way of a pursuing defender. This was no doubt a team effort.

“The one thing that was overlooked was probably the downfield blocking from our wideouts,” Rodriguez said. “Really selfless, they did a great job and we needed every bit of it.”

Moving forward, the results in Boulder can not be taken away, but a failure to build upon them will make a great moment fade away along with the Tucson heat.

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