Arizona Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins Notes: Which Defense Will Hold Up the Most Saturday at Arizona Stadium?

UCLA is coming off a 67-63 shootout victory Saturday night over Washington State, a game that was for the ages if you like back-and-forth scoring like the old Mountain West days.

The residue left for the Bruins is that they allowed 720 total yards (570 passing) and nine touchdown passes. That’s a good three weeks of production for many quarterbacks.

The difference was the turnovers. Wazzu, which blew a 32-point third quarter lead, had six turnovers and UCLA only one. Four of the turnovers (an interception and three fumbles) resulted in UCLA touchdowns and the last turnover, a fumble by quarterback Anthony Gordon, effectively ended the game.

Take away those mistakes and Washington State most likely wins easily. Credit UCLA for creating those turnover opportunities. That masked the Bruins’ woeful defense overall.

UCLA enters this week No. 125 out of 130 college football teams in total defense, allowing 530.3 yards per game.

“We have to prepare for Arizona and Khalil Tate next week,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly incredulously told ESPN at the conclusion of last night’s game.

Arizona’s defense is not much better in terms of the ranking at No. 120 allowing 493.5 yards per game in its four games.

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Tate vs. Thompson-Robinson

Which is the better dual-threat quarterback — Arizona’s Tate or UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson? That will be another storyline of Saturday’s game, which is the Wildcats’ Pac-12 opener.

UCLA’s opener was against Washington State. It was the first win of the season for UCLA after it lost to Cincinnati, San Diego State and Oklahoma.

“This is definitely great momentum. We had a mindset going into this with Pac-12 play, we’re 0-0,” Thompson-Robinson said after the win last night. “Now starting off 1-0 in Pac-12 play we’re definitely ready for the next opponent (Arizona).”

Thompson-Robinson, a sophomore, is the No. 31-rated quarterback in the nation after last night’s 507 yards passing while completing 25 of 38 attempts. He is averaging 265.8 yards passing a game with a quarterback rating of 147.43.

Tate is at No. 61 with a 228.0 passing yards a game but he has a higher quarterback rating of 150.95 (ranks 47th nationally). Passer rating is calculated using a player’s passing attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns and interceptions.

Thompson-Robinson had five touchdown passes and one interception against Washington State. Five receivers had at least 50 yards receiving, led by Demetric Felton‘s 150 yards on seven receptions and two touchdowns. Chase Cota had four catches for 147 yards and a touchdown.

The first three games this season for Thompson-Robinson: 556 passing yards and five touchdowns. Against Washington State: 507 passing yards and five touchdowns.

Thompson-Robinson also showed his running ability against the Cougars with 57 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns. He has rushed for only 12 yards on 42 carries this season, however, because of the 10 sacks UCLA has allowed this season. Thompson-Robinson is more of a scrambler. His runs usually are not designed.

Tate is at 238 yards on 32 rushes this season.

Overall, advantage Tate for being the best dual-threat quarterback.

Turnover margin key stat

Despite last night’s plus-5 turnover margin, UCLA still ranks No. 82 nationally in turnover margin at minus-0.25. The Bruins have gained eight turnovers while turning the ball over nine times. Before last night, they had eight turnovers to only two for their opponents.

Which is the real UCLA team?

Arizona ranks No. 6 in the nation with a plus-1.67 margin.

The Wildcats have gained 10 turnovers and lost five. They are No. 1 in the nation with eight interceptions. Senior cornerback Jace Whittaker is tied for the national lead averaging 1.0 interceptions a game. He and San Jose State’s Bobby Brown II have three interceptions through three games.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com 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 CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, 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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