Khalil Tate put up impressive numbers, sharing the quarterback position with freshman Grant Gunnell, but Arizona could not put all the pieces together with the Wildcats’ defense faltering against Stanford.
Arizona is on a three-game losing streak after its 41-31 loss on Saturday with Oregon State coming to Tucson next week. Homecoming will not be all festive with how the Wildcats (4-4 overall, 2-3 Pac-12) have played as of late.
The defense was not helped in the two previous lopsided losses to Washington and USC. The defense was nowhere to be found at Palo Alto, Calif., giving way to a Stanford offense that ranked No. 11 in the Pac-12 gaining only 330.9 yards a game entering the game.
K.J. Costello returned from his injury for Stanford to pass for 312 yards while completing 30 of 43 pass attempts with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
In the previous three games Costello played before his injury, he had 471 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Not exactly all-conference numbers but Costello looked like an All-Pac-12 player against Arizona.
Before the fourth quarter, Tate looked more like the productive Tate who Arizona fans have seen before rather than the one who ran for his life and looked lost against Washington and USC.
He completed 17 of 33 pass attempts for 205 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions (both snared by cornerback Paulson Adebo). Gunnell completed all seven of his attempts for 68 yards with a touchdown, but he did have a 14-yard loss early in the fourth quarter when he fumbled while feeling pressure from Stanford.
Tate became a runner again, gaining 103 yards on nine carries, including a 57-yard scoring run that cut Stanford’s lead to 21-17.
And. He's. Gone! ⚡️@KhalilDTN keeps it for a 5⃣7⃣-yard TD!
Every time it seemed Arizona could gain momentum — like that Tate run — Stanford’s offense was able to sustain drives against the Wildcats’ beleaguered defense.
The Wildcats tied Stanford 31-31 with 9:32 left in the third quarter when Tate completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Sabino graduate Drew Dixon. In the first half, former Cienega standout Jamarye Joiner made a spectacular one-handed catch for a touchdown on a pass from Tate.
This catch deserves a second look 👀
After that scoring strike to Dixon, Stanford answered with a 65-yard scoring drive that culminated with Costello completing a 14-yard pass to Semi Fehoko with 5:11 left in the third quarter.
Arizona’s offense after Stanford took a 38-31 lead on that play:
— Two punts
— Two interceptions
— Turnover on downs
“We couldn’t answer,” Sumlin said in the postgame radio show. “When we got off the field and we scored the game became close. In the end, we got two turnovers and they didn’t have any.
“Again, when we win the turnover battle we’re in a better position than we were in today and we turned it over twice and they did not.”
The Wildcats had only 1 yard rushing in the fourth quarter after amassing 221 yards on the ground in the first three quarters. Arizona was 8 of 20 passing in the fourth quarter for only 67 yards.
While only a possession down after the Costello-Fehoko touchdown connection for Stanford, Arizona did not stick mostly with what it was doing so well — rushing the ball — with only seven carries over three possessions before Stanford took a 41-31 lead on a 21-yard field goal with 6:18 left in regulation.
The Wildcats tried five passes. One resulted in an interception. The other was Gunnell getting sacked, losing the ball, and taking Arizona out of field goal position with a 14-yard loss.
J.J. Taylor could have been utilized more, rushing only 16 times for 107 yards. He became the eighth running back in Arizona history to eclipse 3,000 career rushing yards. He is at 3,030 yards on 525 carries.
Arizona Career Rushing Leaders
“We came into this game saying we want to give it to him over 20 times,” Sumlin said. “He had 16 carries and we threw it to him, he had five catches, so that was a good part.
“He made yards and made people miss. He’s tough and he runs through things. We have to get him his touches, but he is still not 100 percent (because of injury). An 85 percent or 90 percent J.J. is still a great player.”
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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.