Saturday Preview: Oregon State gearing up for Arizona’s Khalil Tate
TUCSON — Khalil Tate burst onto the national scene with a record-setting performance against Colorado off the bench. He kept running away from defenders, even when teams knew what was coming.
UCLA couldn’t stop him. Neither could California or Washington State. Even Southern Cal had trouble slowing Arizona’s sophomore quarterback in a victory over the Wildcats last week.
Now it’s Oregon State’s turn. Good luck.
“I don’t know if there’s anybody just quite like him,” Beavers defensive coordinator Kevin Clune told reporters this week.
Tate started the season as the backup to Brandon Dawkins, the same role he filled last season as a freshman. When Dawkins was injured early against Colorado on Oct. 7, Tate ran with the job and away from the Buffaloes, setting an FBS record for a quarterback with 327 yards while scoring four touchdowns.
Tate kept racking up yards despite teams game planning against him, rushing for 1,001 yards and nine touchdowns the past five games. He has 1,087 yards on the season, becoming the first Pac-12 quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Tate was the first player to be named the Pac-12’s offensive player of the week four straight weeks and was named a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s best player. He’s also put himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation despite his limited action the first two games.
Oregon State (1-8, 0-6 Pac-12) is 10th in the Pac-12 against the run, allowing 188.7 yards per game, but has played better in recent weeks under interim coach Cory Hall. The Beavers lost by three to Colorado and by one to Stanford before California pulled away for a 37-23 victory last week.
Oregon State blew out Arizona 42-27 in Corvallis last season, the Wildcats’ eighth straight loss.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence against some good teams,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “It’s a lot of the same guys that we had problems with last year. We have to go in there with confidence but we have to prepare with confidence.”
A few more things to look for when Arizona (6-3, 4-2) hosts Oregon State on Saturday night:
Arizona running back Nick Wilson has been plagued by injuries the past three seasons and has battled an ankle sprain suffered against California on Oct. 21.
He didn’t play against Washington State and was limited to two carries last week against USC. Rodriguez said Wilson is “full go” for this week and could be a big part of the game plan in the final home game of his career. Wilson is one of 18 Arizona seniors playing their final home game.
Oregon State announced earlier this week that running back Trevorris Johnson was suspended indefinitely. Johnson, a graduate transfer from TCU, has 28 carries for 94 rushing yards and two touchdowns this season. No reason was given for the suspension.
Hall said he was not ruling out a return for Johnson this season. “It’s not over for him, not by a long shot. I have to have a conversation with him and make sure we’re leading these young student-athletes down the right path, teaching them the right things,” Hall said.
NOT MICHAEL VICK
Hall was a safety with Atlanta back in 2003-04 when Michael Vick was playing with the Falcons. He was asked this week about the comparisons between his former teammate and Tate. “When you start putting labels on collegiate athletes that, to be honest, they don’t even realize that it’s not fair to them. However, I do believe that Khalil Tate is a tremendous athlete. I do not believe that one player makes a team,” Hall said.