Preview: Arizona visits Oregon State with focus on Tate’s ankle
The previous time he faced Oregon State, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate rushed for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns. When he sees the Beavers on Saturday, he may have to rely more on his arm.
Tate tweaked his left ankle and his normally potent running ability has been slowed this season. But last week, the dual-threat got his arm going and threw for a career-high 349 yards and five touchdowns in a 62-31 rout of Southern Utah. He had just four carries.
Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin admitted that Tate wasn’t at full strength going into the game, Arizona’s first win of the season after losses to BYU and Houston. Concerns about Tate’s ankle were amplified after one carry that resulted in a fumble.
Last year in a 49-28 Arizona victory over the Beavers, Tate rushed for 206 yards on 16 carries with two TDs. The Wildcats ran for a school-record 534 yards in the game. As a result, Tate didn’t need to pass much and threw for just 68 yards.
Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said that Tate is a threat even when he’s limited.
“I just know what he’s done this season is scary because he is throwing the ball from the pocket and I think he is doing it well,” Smith said. “What is scary about that is now he can beat you by spreading you out and throwing the ball on time, and there’s always the factor of on a pass play pulling it and going, let alone what he can do in the run game.”
Oregon State’s one victory this season also came against Southern Utah.
Beavers quarterback Jake Luton is listed as doubtful because of an ankle sprain. So it’s likely Conor Blount will start at Reser Stadium. Jack Colletto is next on the depth chart.
Blount has thrown for 570 yards and four touchdowns this season, while Luton has thrown for 372 yards and a score.
Smith has juggled his quarterbacks this season, and seems content with not picking a regular starter.
“I feel good that we have two quarterbacks that we feel like we could move the ball with, and we’ve needed both of them,” Smith said.
Oregon State freshman Jermar Jefferson is having an excellent season, shouldering much of the burden while junior Artavis Pierce is injured. Jefferson rushed for 106 yards and two TDs last week against Nevada.
He’s averaging 130 rushing yards to lead all freshmen at the FBS level, and he ranks seventh nationally among all players. He has six total touchdown runs this season.
Oregon State hasn’t won a conference game since the 2016 season. Smith was asked this week whether he thought the team’s nonconference games have prepared the Beavers for Pac-12 play.
“I think you take from all of it. I do think you get into these league games, we’re going to be playing some really good opponents,” he said. “The guys prepare and play, I feel like we’re ready to start playing in a conference game.”
The Wildcats were 6½-point favorites going into Saturday’s game, but Oregon State has won seven of its past nine against Arizona at Reser Stadium.
One concerning aspect of Arizona’s victory over Southern Utah was the penalties: The Wildcats had 10 penalties for 98 yards. “It was sloppy play. We play a lot of different people, but that’s something that we have to clean up and something that is being addressed in practice,” Sumlin said.
Oregon State offensive lineman Brandon Kipper has been granted immediate eligibility from the NCAA after transferring from Hawaii in the offseason.
He played in 11 games last year as a true freshman. He was available to play for the Beavers in the Nevada game but didn’t.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE CHAINSAW?
In Oregon State’s close loss to Nevada last week, Beavers linebacker John McCartan lofted a chainsaw following his fourth-quarter interception. Turns out, it’s a “Turnover Chainsaw,” a Pacific Northwest take on Miami’s “Turnover Chain.”
Oh, and don’t worry, it is child-proof so there aren’t any unfortunate accidents.