Arizona Football

Khalil Tate Returns as a Runner, Arizona’s Defense Makes Statement, Wildcats Confident for Pac-12 Play

The Khalil Tate of 2017 returned and Arizona’s defense showed up on Saturday night to propel the Wildcats to an important 28-14 win against Texas Tech at Arizona Stadium.

The win brought back memories of yesteryear when Arizona routinely won with a dominant running game and a resilient defense.

A 99-yard drive — comprising of only rushing plays — in the fourth quarter was like a knockout punch to Texas Tech. Gary Brightwell‘s 1-yard plunge capped the drive with 4:05 left, putting Arizona up 28-14 (after Tate’s two-point conversion pass to Jamarye Joiner).

Arizona Athletics graphic/photo

“The offensive line did a nice job,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said of the extensive drive that took 7:10 off the clock. “I thought our coaches had a nice plan of attack. To run it that many times 99 yards, that is a step that should give us some confidence going into conference play.

“The way everybody appraoched this week in the locker room it feels a lot different now than last week (in the uninspiring 65-41 win over NAU in which Sumlin questioned his team’s performance). We got a complete effort from everybody tonight.”

The Wildcats (2-1) head into a bye week with confidence as they prepare for their Pac-12 opener against UCLA on Sept. 28 at Arizona Stadium.

Arizona defenders Anthony Pandy and Tony Fields II close in on the Texas Tech running back (Arizona Athletics photo)

The manhandling of Texas Tech’s defense up front showed a Pac-12 school can play smash-mouth with a Big 12 team from Texas. Arizona did not attempt a pass in the fourth quarter and rushed for 122 yards. Its last 21 offensive plays of the game were all runs.

Arizona’s toughness on defense is a hot topic in Tucson after Marcel Yates‘ unit allowed 41 points to NAU last week and 45 in the season-opening loss at Hawaii.

The Red Raiders (2-1) entered ranked No. 9 in the nation in total yards averaging 557.5 yards in routs over Montana State and UTEP at home. Arizona kept Texas Tech to 425 yards and only two touchdowns after the Red Raiders scored 83 points in the first two games.

The defense put an exclamation point on its performance forcing Texas Tech to turn the ball over on downs at the Arizona 22 with 2:11 left.

“It was really a good overall win,” said Arizona linebacker Colin Schooler, who had eight tackles, including 1.5 for loss. “We’ve got a big sign in front of our locker room that says, ‘It’s about us.’ People get on social media and talk about us — it does not matter to us. We showed a lot of people they can be wrong about how we play.”.

In the win over Texas Tech, Tate rushed for 129 yards on 17 carries, his most attempts since running 16 times for 206 yards against Oregon State on Nov. 11, 2017 — a performance that capped a magical six-game run of at least 137 yards each game.

His rushing performance — including a career-high 84-yard touchdown run in the second quarter — was part of Arizona’s 314-yard effort on the ground.

“I told (Tate about the long run), ‘You look like you’re jogging. Why don’t you open it up and run?'” Sumlin said. “He is a real threat when he has the ball in his hands.”

J.J. Taylor had 39 rushes on 11 carries before leaving because of an undisclosed injury. Brightwell gained 85 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. Little-used sophomore Bam Smith contributed 63 yards on nine rushes.

Tate also showed a dual threat with his arm, completing 14 of 23 passes for 185 yards. His promising production overshadowed his struggles — losing a fumble and throwing two interceptions.

The defense, which tied for the national lead with six interceptions entering the game, made its seventh and eighth interceptions of the season against Texas Tech, topping the seven it had all of last year.

Anthony Pandy had his first interception of the season while Lorenzo Burns grabbed his second pick.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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