Redemption: Arizona football avenges blowout loss with impressive 58-37 victory over Washington State
Arizona, behind the legs and arm of sophomore sensation Khalil Tate punched their ticket to the postseason with an impressive 58-37 victory over the No. 15 Cougars. The ‘Cats fourth consecutive win puts them firmly in control of their own destiny in the Pac-12 South. A showdown with division leader Southern Cal looms on the horizon.
The anticipated battle of the quarterbacks between Khalil Tate and Luke Falk turned into a competition between Tate and Tyler Hilinski. Falk was ineffective in the early going, causing Mike Leach to bench the senior leader. Hilinski, a sophomore, took full advantage of his unanticipated opportunity. Arizona’s ineffective pass rush gave the young passer time to find himself, and he delivered, completing 45 of 61 passes. He was surprisingly athletic, rushing for two touchdowns.
Despite passing for a career high 509-yards, Hilinski was a turnover machine. The ‘Cats picked off four of his passes, with two ending promising Cougar drives. A crucial adjustment was made at halftime, with the ‘Cats confusing Hilinski. The final interception proved to be a spirit breaker, as linebacker Colin Schooner dashed to the endzone midway through the fourth quarter. Schooner’s score was made possible by numerous blocks, a fact acknowledged by the freshman after the game.
Tate proved to be up for challenge posed by Hilinski, as he put together yet another inspired performance. The former backup was efficient through the air, completing 10 of 17 passes. Tate completed passes to six different receivers. Tate’s growth in the passing game was noted by head coach Richard Rodriguez in the post game press conference.
“He’s good a great a touch on the deep ball as anyone I’ve ever had,” Rodriguez said.
Tight end Jamie Nunley was a thorn in the side of the Cougars, he gained 116-yards on two receptions. The athletic freshman found gaping holes in the seams of the Cougar defense and turned those opportunities into big plays.
Tate also ran wild through the Cougar defense in the second half, finishing the game with 158-yards on the ground. Tate’s speed was on full display as he raced 49-yards to score a crucial fourth quarter touchdown.
Tailback J.J. Taylor came alive in the second half, breaking two huge runs, one a 79-yard scoring jaunt. Arizona’s run game proved to be the difference, as the ‘Cats were able to salt the game away late with multiple chunk plays.
“I’ve felt good about him [Taylor] since August,” Rodriguez said.
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