Right at the start of game time Saturday afternoon it was announced that star quarterback Khalil Tate and featured running back J.J. Taylor were going to be back from injury.
Having both players back would make you think Arizona’s running game would wake up after a rough week running the ball against UCLA. In that game against the Bruins they ran for 99 yards on 30 rushes. So, how would the rushing game do against Colorado?
Here are the grades for each position in Arizona’s nail-biting 35-30 win over Colorado.
In his Arizona career, Tate has dominated Colorado, stacking up eye popping numbers going 29-for-35 with 504 yards totaling 6 TDs through the air in two career starts against Colorado. He also has rushed for 355 yards with 4 TDs as well. That continued for Tate has he had his best passing game of his career going 31 of 41 with 404 yards passing and 3 TDs. Even though he threw a pick late in the second quarter that lead to a Colorado touchdown, Tate had the defense searching for answers.
Running Backs: C
With Tate and Taylor back one would think that the running game would improve from last weeks subpar performance. Unfortunately, Taylor only played the first drive and was not seen on the field again. Arizona was able to do anything they wanted threw the air, on the ground was a different story with 26 rushes for 87 yards. Most of the running game issues is most likely a product of the success of the passing game, so, that is why the running backs group walks away with a passing grade.
Wide Receivers: A+
It was another great game for the receiving core, seeing 11 different player touch the ball. Yes, it is true that the quarterback has much to do with this however, the route running was superb and they didn’t drop any easy catches. The first half of the game was rough for wide out Brian Casteel who was making mistakes in the punt return game, he bounced back with a strong second half finishing with 7 for 74 and a touchdown.
Tight End: N/A
Another game another stat sheet with an Arizona tight end walking away without a reception. I would love to say that this will change, still, I’m realistic and figure that we will not see a tight end as a feature part of the offense.
Offensive Line: A-
When you look at this game and see Arizona only had 83 yards rushing you would think the offensive line struggled. That was not the case at all in the Colorado game, the line completely dominated the line of scrimmage. Two telling stats, zero sacks allowed, and just one penalty on the team. Think about that second statistic, just ONE penalty on a team that had 10 last game versus UCLA. That is a huge improvement, one of the man reasons why they won the close game.
Defensive Line: C-
To be honset the grade is a little generous considering Steven Montez didn’t get sacked once. While Colorado running back Alex Fontenot picked up 4.5 yards a carry on his was to 106 yards taking pressure off of Montez. Arizona was able to able pressure at times, however, Montez usually was able to escape creating a big play or gaining a first down. With Washington coming up someone on the defensive line needs to step up.
Overall it was a solid performance by the linebacking core that had two of the top three tacklers at the end of the Colorado game. At the same time, there were a ton of missed tackles that lead to big plays for Colorado. So, at the end of the day it was a good performance that needs improvement.
Yes, the cornerbacks gave up a good amount of yardage 337 passing yards to be exact. However, Colorado’s receiving core is very deep and talented, even without star wide out Laviska Shenault it is a group that might be the best in the PAC-12. One of those receivers Tony Brown had himself another great game with 10 catches for 141 yards. So, the reason why Arizona’s cornerbacks get a solid grade is because when crunch time hit they found a way to make the game ending pass deflection. Simply put, they came through in the clutch.
They are very much in the same boat as the cornerbacks group, the only difference is that safety Tristan Cooper was second in tackles, only behind Tony Fields. There was a lot to improve on especially with Washington coming to Tucson.
Special Teams: B
Like I said in the receivers section, Brain Casteel struggled in punt returning, fair catching some questionable punts pinning the offense deep inside the ten yard-line. Casteel would go on to have a good game making up for the kick return blunders. Arizona punter Matt Aragon had 5 punts that averaged 40.6 yards a punt, not bad considering he was struggling before his great performance against UCLA. As for kick-offs Lucas Havirsik was 6-for-6 having nothing but touchbacks limiting Colorado’s special teams. If it wasn’t for Jamarye Joiner barely steeping out of bounds on a would be kick return for a touchdown the special teams group might have walked away with an A. Overall, it was a rock solid game from the special teams group.
Arizona tried to establish the run early, it just wasn’t working and was very clear. The offense had trouble moving the ball in the first half because the running game was so ineffective, so, at halftime Arizona’s coaches went back to the drawing board and changed up their game plan. Showing the ability to adjust was critical part of the 35-30 win. Arizona had some issues defensively throughout the game but, showed the ability to lock it down when it mattered the most. Just to show how the defense improved Arizona gave up just 3 points in the fourth quarter.
Arizona was able to win a tough road game against a solid Colorado squad by showing the ability to overcome adversity. Now, they come home to face a less then happy Washington Huskies team that has underachieved so far this season. It will be another late night as the game starts at 8:00 p.m. under the lights. Arizona will need to find a way to hold Jacob Eason in check if they want to walk away with a win.