Khalil Tate

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Khalil Tate saving Rich Rodriguez and putting Arizona in Pac-12 contention

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Those who have sacrificed their sleep on the weekends to watch a talented running back duo of Stanford’s Bryce Love and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny this season are already conditioned for this, but Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate has become one more reason to stay up late on Saturdays. Tate is close to carrying Arizona by himself as the main attraction in a much-needed turnaround season for Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats.

After diminishing win totals each of the past two seasons, it was fair to suggest this was a critical season for Rodriguez in Tucson. And after a 2-2 start to the season that included some offensive struggles against Houston and Utah at home, Tate’s sudden rise could not have come at a better time. Since taking over at quarterback in early October against Colorado, Tate has been off and running, literally. Tate is essentially Rodriguez’s 2017 edition of Pat White.

Tate is Arizona’s leading rusher with 926 yards and eight touchdowns following his 146 rushing yards and a touchdown Saturday night against No. 15 Washington State in a 58-37 victory. Tate also had 275 passing yards and two scores through the air to lead Arizona to a blowout win with a strong second half.

Tate is playing his way into the Heisman Trophy mix against incredible odds, and it is easy to see why. He legitimately has a chance to break a big play every time he touches the football. And as the quarterback, he has his hands on the football every play Arizona runs. Tate is second in the Pac-12 in plays of 30+ yards with 12, trailing only Stanford’s Love. He is one of five players in the conference with a play of 80+ yards and he is the only Pac-12 player with 4 plays of 70 yards or longer (Washington’s Dante Pettis is second in the Pac-12 with two).

As we have noted before, Tate was not the starting quarterback for Arizona at the start of the season, making Tate’s sudden rise in the Pac-12 even more entertaining to those tuning in. This week Tate will be one of the reasons to stay up late once again as Arizona prepares for a road game at USC. With the Trojans also winning last night on the road against Arizona State, first-place is on the line for the Wildcats and Trojans, the last two teams in the Pac-12 South with just one loss in conference play.

If Tate can make similar plays happen against USC and Arizona can leave Los Angeles with a win and a head-to-head tiebreaker, Arizona will have an incredibly manageable path to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Taking down the Trojans will be no easy task, but neither will USC’s mission of stopping Tate.

USC hosts Arizona at 10:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4. Put a pot of coffee on. It will be worth it.