Khalil Tate ran the ball Saturday night but not the way Arizona fans wanted — backwards and side-to-side trying to avoid Washington’s blitzing defense — and the Huskies’ unproductive passing game came to life against the Wildcats’ beleaguered pass defense.
The result: A 51-27 loss for Arizona (4-2 overall, 2-1 in the Pac-12) in front of 47,933 fans at Arizona Stadium. Most of them left when 9:54 remained in the game following Washington’s fourth touchdown of the second half.
“We got outplayed. We got outcoached,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said.
After passing for a career-high 404 yards in the 35-30 win at Colorado last week, Tate had one of his worst performances brought on by hasty decisions forced by Washington’s aggressive defense. He completed only 13 passes in 25 attempts with a majority of the incompletions occurring when he threw the ball away in desperation trying not to get sacked.
Sumlin said Tate “bailed out” at times against the pressure by running to the side instead of stepping up and going forward at the line.
Washington (5-2, 2-2) totaled four sacks, the amount Arizona’s defense had the first five games of the season.
Tate, who finished with 184 yards passing and minus-28 yards rushing because of the sacks, had an interception and a fumble that resulted in 10 points for the Huskies. Two other Arizona turnovers led to two more touchdowns for Washington. Those 24 points proved to be the difference in a 24-point loss.
“You can’t make that many turnovers against a team like that,” Sumlin said. “You can’t turn the ball over that many times against anybody and expect to be in a competitive game.”
Kevin Sumlin assesses the problems with offense tonight: pic.twitter.com/9JY8FirqVo
“They brought pressure and the back-end (defensive secondary), they did their job. We have to do a better job of executing,” said Tate about Washington’s defense of which he said made things “chaotic.”
“It was a great message for us to wake us up … It was a reality check.”
True freshman Grant Gunnell replaced Tate with 6:53 left in the fourth quarter and led Arizona to a scoring drive, capped by Nate Tilford‘s 25-yard run. It was mop-up duty for Gunnell, who played his third game of the season. One more game and he reaches his limit to redshirt, if Arizona decides to do that.
Washington’s offense awoke in the third quarter with two touchdown-scoring drives, one to open the half on a 75-yard drive and the other on a 36-yard possession following a fumble by Jamarye Joiner.
Six plays after that fumble, Salvon Ahmed‘s 4-yard scoring run with 2:41 left in the third quarter increased Washington’s lead to 27-17.
Following that, the Wildcats appeared to score a touchdown on J.J. Taylor’s twisting and turning run from 6 yards but Thomas Reid III was flagged for holding. Arizona was forced to settle for a 31-yard field goal.
The Wildcats’ defense, which prided itself on Arizona outscoring Texas Tech, UCLA and Colorado 29-3 in the fourth quarter in the previous three games, allowed the Huskies to drive 75 yards in only four plays for a touchdown to increase the lead to 34-20 with 13:07 left in regulation.
Here’s Khalil Tate on Arizona’s 51-27 loss to Washington. Said the Wildcats didn’t play hard enough in the second half. pic.twitter.com/e1alsR69kY
Jacob Eason, much-maligned for his performance in the loss at Stanford last week, capped the drive with a 22-yard pass to Aaron Fuller.
Eason, the No. 7-rated quarterback in the Pac-12 entering the game, completed 15 of 22 passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Washington outscored the Wildcats 24-10 in the fourth quarter.
1ST HALF THOUGHTS:
1. Defense is playing lights out! They kept us in the game.
2. The only thing that can stop Khalil Tate, is Khalil Tate. #BearDown
At least Taylor had an encouraging performance in his first real action in three games following an injury. He rushed for 89 yards on 18 carries. Nate Tilford rushed for 49 yards on six carries. Gary Brightwell and Bam Smith did not play because of undisclosed injuries.
Arizona took an unlikely 17-13 lead at halftime despite a series of serious mishaps, including a blocked punt, a fumble on a punt return and Tate throwing the ball backward in attempt to get rid of the ball that resulted in a Washington recovery of the ball and a touchdown.
Tate snapped out of his early-game funk, enhanced by Washington’s blitzing defense, by completing four of his last five attempts of the first half, including a 40-yard touchdown strike to Joiner, a former Cienega standout.
After that score, Arizona’s defense forced a three-and-out for Washington to keep the momentum going for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats’ ground game took control on their ensuing possession with Tilford gaining 19 yards on three carries and Taylor running three times for 10 yards, including a 1-yard score following a 23-yard pass from Tate to tight end Bryce Wolma.
Arizona’s defense did not allow a touchdown in the first half despite the blocked punt recovered at the Wildcats’ 38 and the fumble on the return when Stanley Berryhill III waved for the fair catch but Reid bumped into him. That play resulted in Washington having the ball at the Arizona 8. Both mishaps resulted in Husky field goals of 27 and 25 yards by Peyton Henry.
Arizona continues its difficult second half of the season with road trips in consecutive weeks to USC and Stanford.
“What we can’t do is let this loss bleed into next week,” Sumlin said.
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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.