And for an encore … Khalil Tate ran and ran and ran.
In back-to-back games, Tate has now rushed for 557 yards, after Saturday night’s 230 yards that helped Arizona beat visiting UCLA 47-30.
“It wasn’t a monkey, it was a gorilla,” said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, referring to UA beating UCLA for the first time in six games.
Arizona can thank a just strong defense and an offense that has found its mojo behind an 18-year-old named Khalil Tate.
Forest Gump has nothing on Tate, who has speeds of fast and faster and has more moves than Bruno Mars.
As his teammates said, it’s just “Khalil doing Khalil.”
It happened early – way before some in the crowd even had a chance to get their seats warm – when Tate broke off a 45-yard run to give UA a quick 6-0 lead that turned into a 7-0 advantage.
One of UCLA’s main objectives coming in, UCLA coach Jim Mora said, was stopping Tate. In fact, it may have been priority No.1. And, well, it didn’t come close.
“He’s a heck of a player,” Mora said. “My hat (is) off to him and Arizona. That young man is dynamic, and he changes the game.”
It happened right away and continued throughout the game. Every time UCLA had a chance to creep back into the game, Tate orchestrated another TD. Whether it was him dodging through the defenders or him juking a pass before taking off for a run, Tate worked his magic.
“He broke off some (runs) last week and he’s faster than those guys over there (at Colorado),” Rodriguez said, “(but) UCLA is pretty athletic. He’s in the best shape of his life and he’s running as fast as he’s ever run. I’m really proud of him. He can play even better (still). But when we needed a big play … when we needed a big pass or a big run he was delivering.”
After setting an FBS QB rushing record last week, here's what Khalil Tate is doing for an encore 😳 pic.twitter.com/rDQcF0ol4e
Call him the Post Man. Well, he’s rang twice now and has given Arizona a jolt that it desperately needed the last two weeks after having a season that was headed in another direction.
But, like Tate everything is trending up. Way up. UA is now 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12 South where it looks like anyone can win the thing. These days anything can happen in the conference.
Why not Arizona? At least that seems to be the feeling after its confidence is very apparent and its step is more pronounced. And, of course, there’s Tate, who has come on the scene like a hard-to-stop freight train after he lost the starting job to Brandon Dawkins to begin the season.
“I’m a lot more comfortable, being a lot more knowledgeable of the offense and the offensive line doing as good as they do,” Tate said, when asked what the difference is with him since camp started in August. “The receivers staying patient has helped a lot.”
Actually, Tate’s been very patient. It was almost a year to the day – Oct. 15, 2016 – this then 17-year-old freshman started for UA against USC and was a non-factor in a 48-14 loss. How has he changed?
“Well, I’m a year older,” he said without trying to be funny. Overall, he’s just more comfortable.
“I’m the same person,” he said when told he looks like a different guy. “I haven’t changed.”
No one wants that to happen. In fact, his teammates see him do special things in practice all the time. So, his game antics aren’t that surprising. What it’s doing now is helping guys like Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor run freer.
“Everyone focuses on him so it’s pretty simple and straight forward for us running backs,” said Wilson, who added 135 rushing yards. “Once he gets going he really gets going. Khalil does Khalil things.”
Stay humble and stay hungry.