Analysis: The moments that mattered most in Arizona's win over Colorado
Arizona football defeated Colorado 42-34 on Friday to win its second-consecutive game and fifth game of the year. Here are the top moments that determined the outcome.
Lucky number five
Tate took the college football stage by storm last season versus the Buffs, compiling 481 total yards and five total touchdowns. A repeat performance was needed for the ‘Cats to overcome Colorado Friday night, and Tate delivered in a big way. Leading 35-34 early in the fourth quarter, Tate notched his fifth passing touchdown of the night.
Connecting with receiver Cedric Peterson for a 57-yard catch and run extended Arizona’s lead to eight points and marked the third time in Tate’s career that he’s thrown for five scores. The touchdown gave Arizona its largest lead of the night and capped off a four-play, 85-yard drive that even featured Tate doing what so many people became accustomed to seeing last year: making defenders miss with his legs.
Just one play prior, Tate escaped the pocket on third down and created running room by himself. He darted towards Colorado’s sideline, gaining enough for a first down and then appeared to slow up just a touch in order to run out of bounds.
Instead, Tate stuck his foot in the ground and exploded back to his right, cutting across the face of two defenders and accelerating up the field. He was eventually tackled from behind, signifying that he’s yet to regain his elite speed, but not before gaining 25 and providing the spark that Arizona’s offense needed. It’s been a long time coming for Tate; nevertheless, it was a great sign to see him back in original form – of sorts.
Tate didn’t flash his wheels like he did last year versus the Buffs when he ran for a NCAA record 327-yards, for a quarterback, but he did have a career night passing the football. His first of three first-half touchdowns through the air tied the game at 10 with 10:33 left in the second quarter. Tate rolled left, set his feet and delivered a strike to Stanley Berryhill III racing down his team’s sideline.
Berryhill corralled Tate’s pass with a sticky left hand at the front of the end zone despite a defender being draped all over him – inciting a defensive pass interference call – to bring the ‘Cats back to even. The Tucson native’s second career touchdown grab ignited Arizona’s offense at a time when all appeared to be lost. Tate would go on to set a new career high with 350 yards passing and tied his previous career-mark of five touchdowns through the air.
There were plenty of mental mistakes made by the Wildcats on Friday night, but none as inexcusable as Jarrius Wallace’ desperate break on a deep ball with less than a minute until halftime. Rather than breaking on the receiver and securing a tackle in-bounds (at minimum), Wallace disregarded the situation and attempted to intercept Montez’ pass. The untimely decision resulted in the Buffs jumping right back into the game’s driver seat, gaining momentum in the process. Fortunately, for Wallace’s sake, he had a dozen other teammates to help make up for his risky play.
Don’t worry, I got you
Josh Pollack missed the PAT after Tate’s third touchdown pass. Luckily, Arizona’s other kicker, Lucas Havrisik, bailed his buddy out by nailing a 55-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, putting the ‘Cats back in front, 26-24. Pollack’s miss was one of a handful of Arizona miscues across the board on Friday night. Havrisik, however, showed off the monster leg that got coaches drooling over his potential as a true freshman last season.
His 50-yard kick didn’t just secure a halftime lead after a series of blunders by the Wildcats, it secured a two-point scoring lead moving forward, forcing the Buffs to likely go for broke at some point down the game’s final stretch. Despite hitting the back burner in recent weeks, Havrisik’s night wasn’t just limited to his big boot. He also initiated Arizona’s scoring, getting the ‘Cats on the board with a 49-yard successful try at the start of the second quarter.
Pollack eventually redeemed himself with a 41-yard make of his own, extending Arizona’s lead to 35-31 with just over two minutes remaining in the third. Without Havrisik, though, Arizona’s special teams unit could have hurt its team more than it helped.
Troy Young’s game-sealing INT
Safety Troy Young played sparingly on Friday night. He didn’t tally any tackles, nor did he log any pass breakups. He did, however, come up with Arizona’s best defensive play of the night – intercepting Buffs quarterback Montez on Colorado’s final offensive play of the game.
Facing third down deep in Arizona territory with the game on the line, down by eight, Colorado chucked its final efforts into the end zone rather than living to play one more down. Young was in prime position to make a play on the ball and secure the ‘Cats second win in a row. He launched into the air, high-pointed Montez’s pass, and landed right along the one-yard line. Arizona’s offense returned to action and managed to wind the clock all the way down to zero – leaning on bell-cow back J.J. Taylor in the process.
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