So, that was how Arizona was supposed to play in September and, well, October – right? Or so we all thought, with an added flair of Khalil Tate running around like a video game Icon. At the very least – or for one night – Arizona showed what it can do given what it did against No. 19 Oregon, winning 44-15 in Arizona’s annual Homecoming game.
“It felt good; it was a long time coming,” said Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate. “We hadn’t been playing well all year, but it was the first time we actually played four quarters.”
Who saw that coming? Not me or anyone I knew. Not after the first few weeks of Arizona’s play this season. And the last seven games were a pretty good sample size. Then Saturday night came.
“That’s what we want to be,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said when asked how it was beating a top 25 team in grand fashion. “That’s our goal to be a top 25 team. And in order to do that we gotta beat other teams in that range. That’s who we want to be, and we’ve got a way to go.”
If this was a step, well, it was a big step. After mediocre-to-poor performances most of the season – although Sumlin said “we’ve had moments” this season – Arizona put together its best start-to-finish game of the season. Heck, the game’s outcome didn’t truly tell the story in as much as Arizona could have easily defeated the Ducks 50-something to 15. But it got stuck in the Red Zone and settled for field goals where touchdowns were possible.
But that’s getting a bit knit picky. Enjoy the moment. And boy did it look good.
Running back J.J. Taylor rushed for 212 yards and two touchdowns, one a leap to remember for Arizona’s final score.
Khalil Tate, who returned to the starting lineup after a week’s rest from an injured ankle, passed for 189 yards and three touchdowns. Tate said his sitting out last week “helped a lot” by taking a break.
Shun Brown caught 10 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Shawn Poindexter had two catches, both were touchdowns.
Arizona had 27 first downs to Oregon’s 18.
Arizona had 465 yards in total offense to Oregon’s 270.
The numbers were so good going into the game one would have thought Oregon would have been the dominant one. Instead, it was Arizona.
“We talked about (playing all) four quarters,” Sumlin said. “We have played well in two quarters of games; second half of games and three quarters of games. We talked about playing four quarters of games and see what happens … we did that.”
Arizona put pressure from the start offensively and its defense easily played the best game of the season. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert was a non-factor, passing for 186 yards on 24 completions.
“Coming into the season I had high expectations of our defense and that’s not going to change,” Colin Schooler said, when asked about this being the defense he had hoped to see this year. “You’re only good as your last game so we can’t let this performance affect our future.”
The difference in Arizona’s defense – short of it attacking and being aggressive all night – was its out-of-ordinary success on third down. It limited the Ducks to three successful third down conversions in 16 attempts.
“That’s huge,” said Colin Schooler of the third down conversions. “It’s the momentum we get and we’re not on the field that long. Getting the offense on the field is our goal.”
With four games left on the schedule that will be the goal the rest of the way. It must be in addition this from Sumlin:
“We gotta stay humble and we gotta stay hungry too,” he said.
At least this one whet Arizona’s appetite