Football Notebook: Five stats that defined the game
The Arizona Wildcats came into their Friday night matchup with Colorado coming off their biggest win of the season. Colorado came in after blowing a large lead against Oregon State at home, which was the Buffaloes’ third-straight loss after starting the season 5-0. Something had to give, and the game did not disappoint, as the scoreboard operator had a busy night in Arizona’s 42-34 win.
0 points in first quarter for Arizona
Starting games slowly and without urgency has become a bad habit that the Wildcats haven’t been able to kick so far this season, and that was the case again on Friday, as Arizona scored exactly zero points in the first quarter. The defense was left to put out fires from kickoff and depending on a fourth-down stop and fumble recovery on the first drive to keep the Buffs at bay in the opening couple of minutes.
Colorado will come away from this game frustrated at the amount of points that it left on the table during the opening 15-minute period, like an overthrown ball from Colorado’s Steven Montez that sailed on the intended receiver, which forced the Buffaloes to settle for a field goal that made it a 10-point lead instead of 14.
26 points in the second quarter
The Wildcats sleepwalked through the start of the game but were quickly awakened by the couple punches to the mouth that Colorado delivered. They then scored 17 unanswered points to take the lead 17-10 and ended the half on Lucas Havrisik’s 55-yard blast to put the home team up 26-24 as time expired.
Arizona’s defense, like the week before, carried the majority of the load, due to the constant pressure they put on Colorado’s Steven Montez. Forcing four sacks in the first half, as Montez finished the first two quarters with ten rushes for just eleven yards, the junior quarterback spent the rest of the game avoiding Wildcat defensive linemen who invaded the Buffaloes backfield.
Khalil Tate finished the first half with an efficient 13/16 passing for 242 yards and three touchdowns, as he carved the Buffaloes up through the air, the same team he carved on the ground for 327 yards just last year. Tate was dynamic for three quarters, and that’s all the Wildcats needed to grab their second consecutive win, putting them just one win away from bowl eligibility.
32 rushes, 40 yards for Colorado
After holding Oregon to their lowest yardage total in almost a decade, the Wildcat front seven put on another dominant display and picked up exactly where they left off last Saturday by making Colorado one-dimensional on offense, shutting down the run game as the Buffaloes averaged just over a yard a rush in the first 30 minutes of the game.
After giving up an average of 190-plus yards a game, according to Pac-12 statistics, going into the matchup against Oregon last year, defensive coordinator Marcel Yates’ unit has grown leaps and bounds in days. That growth couldn’t have come at a better time for Arizona, as it is just one win away from finishing with a .500 record on the season, something that seemed completely out of the question after the Wildcats’ one-point loss in the Rose Bowl to UCLA.
40 carries for J.J. Taylor
Arizona has had one of the Pac-12’s most lethal running games coming into this year, and that isn’t set to end any time soon as long as J.J. Taylor is on the Arizona roster. The redshirt sophomore was the workhorse for the Wildcats, carrying the rock 40 times for 192 yards. Taylor’s threat on the ground allowed the passing game to open up, after the Wildcat’s run-pass-options were keeping Colorado’s linebackers close to the line of scrimmage as they had to respect the threat of Taylor and Khalil Tate.
Taylor’s runs weren’t flashy, but they were back-breaking nonetheless. Taylor’s last ten carries of the night helped seal the deal for the home team, securing a second win on the bounce as they head into Pullman to face a top-10 Washington State team in two weeks’ time.
5 TD passes for Khalil Tate
On a night where the Arizona football team needed a player to step up and take the reins, the Wildcat talisman took over at the right time. Putting together his most complete game of the season, tossing five touchdowns to four different Wildcat receivers, Khalil Tate made plays outside of the pocket all night, extending plays with his feet and finishing them with his arm. The Inglewood-bred gunslinger threw 22 passes, picking his spots and gashing the Colorado defense at the perfect times.
Tate finally showed flashes of the dynamic playmaker that took over the reins last fall, showing no signs of the limp that has followed him ever since his legs got tangled up early on in Arizona’s second game of the season against Houston. If Arizona wants to finish the season strong, Tate is the catalyst for that to happen, and he looked more than ready for that role on Friday night.
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