TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Khalil Tate did it again, and now he has the Arizona Wildcats in position to be taken quite seriously in the Pac-12.
In his fourth straight spectacular performance and the team’s fourth consecutive victory, Tate rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown and passed for 275 more and two scores, leading surprising Arizona to a 58-37 victory over No. 15 Washington State on Saturday night.
J.J. Taylor gained 157 yards on 13 carries for Arizona (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12), including touchdown runs of 79 and 3 yards after Washington State (7-2, 4-2) had rallied to take the lead in the third quarter behind backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski.
”It’s a great night to be an Arizona Wildcat,” coach Rich Rodriguez said.
Not so much to be a Washington State Cougar.
”I thought we played really, really hard,” coach Mike Leach said, ”and I thought we played really dumb … outright dumb.”
The loss knocked Washington State out of a tie with Stanford for first place in the Pac-12 North. The Wildcats will play at USC next weekend with first place in the Pac-12 South at stake.
”I’m really proud that our guys put themselves in a position to be more relevant,” Rodriguez said, ”to have a lot at stake in the last month of the season.”
The Wildcats rolled up 310 yards rushing and 58 points against a Washington State team that had ranked third in run defense and second in points allowed in the Pac-12.
Hilinski replaced Luke Falk late in the first half and ignited what had been a sputtering offense.
Leach said he initially pulled Falk out of the game to allow the quarterback ”to see the field because we weren’t pushing the ball down the field. Then Hilinski was hot, so we stayed with Hilinski.”
The redshirt sophomore completed 45 of 61 passes for 509 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for two scores but was intercepted four times, the last one returned 66 yards by Colin Schooler for a touchdown.
Tate was the first person to win three consecutive Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors.
He had the kind of game Saturday night that might earn him a fourth.
Tate carried 12 times with a long run of 82 yards and an average of 11.2 per carry. He also completed 10 of 17 passes with one interception to go with his two scores.
”He’s got a very strong arm,” Rodriguez said, ”but he’s got as good a touch on a deep ball as any quarterback I’ve had.”
At first, the Cougars concentrated on stopping Tate on the ground.
”They stopped the run and we opened up the pass,” Tate said. ”It’s a lose-lose situation (for them).”
Tate’s lone interception of the night, by Jahan Woods, helped set up Hilinski’s 1-yard touchdown run that gave Washington State its only lead, 27-23, with 8:06 to play in the third quarter.
Arizona needed two plays to regain the lead: Taylor’s 62-yard scamper, followed by his 3-yard touchdown run, and the Wildcats were back on top 30-27.
The most significant plays came on the next two possessions. Hilinski drove the Cougars to the Arizona 8-yard line and put them on the verge of regaining the lead. But, being chased to the sideline, he threw into the end zone and was intercepted by Jace Whittaker.
Two plays later, Taylor burst virtually untouched up the middle on a 79-yard touchdown run that boosted Arizona’s lead to 37-27, a potential 14-point turnaround.
Freshman Lucas Havrisik, Arizona’s backup kicker, booted a 57-yarder as the first half ended to tie a school record. Washington State’s Erik Powell had a career-long 56-yarder.
Arizona gained a measure of revenge from its 69-7 loss last season in Pullman, the Wildcats’ most one-sided defeat since 1948.
”This game was about redemption,” Rodriguez said.
Washington State: The Cougars have lost two of three and fallen behind Stanford and Washington in the Pac-12 North standings. With Falk being replaced, things are looking shaky for Leach’s team.
Arizona: Rodriguez was supposed to be on the hot seat but Tate has pushed the Wildcats firmly into contention in the Pac-12 North and must be one of the most spectacular newcomers on the college football scene this season.
Washington State: The Cougars are home against Stanford next Saturday and need to win to stay relevant in the Pac-12 North.
Arizona: The Wildcats look to make it five wins in a row over Pac-12 foes at USC in a game that, believe it or not, will decide who is in first place in the Pac-12 South.