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UCLA vs. Arizona: Wildcats position group grades

The offense passes with flying colors

Northern Arizona v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats beat the UCLA Bruins 47-30 on Saturday at Arizona Stadium to improve to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12.

Here’s how we thought he each position group performed.

Quarterbacks: A

Khalil Tate was phenomenal for the second straight week.

The sophomore was 9 for 13 for 148 yards and a touchdown through the air, and ran for 230 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries.

He had long touchdown runs for 45 yards and 71 yards, and connected on deep passes for 44 yards and 59 yards, showing incredible touch and pocket awareness.

The only reason Tate didn’t get an A+ is because he overthrew two receivers in the end zone.

But, man, what an impact he’s had on Arizona football. Not just from a win-loss perspective, but on the entire outlook of the program as a whole.

He’s singlehandedly made Arizona football must-see TV in these last two weeks.

Running backs: A

Nick Wilson had his best game of the season, rushing for a season-high 135 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

The senior battled an ankle injury earlier in the year, but looks healthy as ever now. And when he’s not hobbled, he’s clearly Arizona’s best running back.

J.J. Taylor ran for 64 yards on 16 carries, but got a little unlucky since he had a 72-yard touchdown called back after it was ruled his shin hit the ground.

UCLA’s run defense entered Saturday’s game as one of the worst in the country, and it was evident why.

Wide receivers: A

Tony Ellison caught two passes for 59 yards, and both were super impressive plays. On one, a 44-yard reception, he fought through contact to reel in a deep pass over the middle from Tate. It should’ve been PI, but it didn’t matter.

Ellison also made a sliding grab on third down to keep an Arizona drive alive. And not only was he sliding but the throw was a bit too far ahead of him, but he showed nice hands to haul it in.

Shun Brown led the team with three catches for 61 yards. His best play was tracking down this long ball from Tate for 53 yards.

Only one other receiver caught a pass and that was Tyrell Johnson, who caught a screen for six yards. But Arizona ran for over 450 yards, so it didn’t need to attack UCLA through the air all that often. And when it did, it usually worked out well.

UA’s receivers also did a good job blocking down field, spurring some of the long runs the Wildcats had throughout the night.

Tight ends: B

Bryce Wolma continues to make an impact in the passing game, grabbing two passes for 16 yards.

Meanwhile, Trevor Wood hauled in a six-yard touchdown pass AND was successfully used at long snapper late in the game. He did get called for holding which derailed a drive, though, hence the B grade.

Offensive line: B+

Tate has yet to be sacked — or even substantially pressured — on a dropback since becoming the full-time quarterback, and that’s obviously a credit to the o-line.

And unlike last game at Colorado, UA’s o-line was able to create some room between the tackles for Arizona’s running backs, hence the big games for Wilson and company.

Not all of Arizona’s rushing success can be attributed to the offensive line, though, as Tate made two defenders miss in the backfield on his 71-yard TD run.

Defensive line: D

The only player who was able to get to the quarterback was freshman linebacker Kylan Wilborn, who had four sacks.

Arizona’s defensive line was ineffective at generating a pass rush, and UCLA’s o-line won the battle in the running game, generating 190 rush yards.

To be fair, though, Arizona was without Luca Bruno (concussion) and then Parker Zellers who was ejected for targeting. Plus, Justin Belknap got banged up, too. So the d-line wasn’t exactly full strength.

Still, it’s probably the team’s weakest position group right now, and it’s hard to imagine that changing in the final six games.

Linebackers: C+

Kylan Wilborn was Arizona’s best defensive player Saturday.

The true freshman sacked Josh Rosen four times and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles.

Colin Schooler continued to establish himself as the No. 1 option at mike linebacker, tallying five tackles.

Tony Fields II had a quieter game than usual, only making three tackles. I thought the linebackers could have been better in the run game.

Cornerbacks: B

Arizona benefitted from several drops by UCLA receivers, who were able to get separation rather consistently.

Part of that, though, was because Arizona’s pass rush generally didn’t hurry Rosen very often.

Jace Whittaker turned in another outstanding game, with two interceptions and a pass deflection.

One of Whittaker’s interceptions went for six points, while the other was made in the end zone, preventing six points. His pick six was Arizona’s first since 2015 when Cam Denson had one vs. ASU.

And Whittaker wasn’t done there, as he beautifully broke up a deep ball in the end zone, too.

Arizona’s No. 2 cornerback, Lorenzo Burns, led Arizona in tackles (6) but wasn’t quite as effective in coverage.

Safeties: B+

Dane Cruikshank had his best game since moving to the spur position, nabbing his first interception of the season.

Only once did Arizona’s safeties get beat down the field, and thankfully Rosen overthrew his target so it didn’t amount to anything.

As a whole, Rich Rodriguez thought this was his team’s best game in zone coverage all season, so i’ll take his word for it.

Special Teams: F

Awful game by this unit.

Jake Glatting had three punts for 94 yards and Josh Pollack missed an extra point and 28-yard field goal attempt. Plus, Arizona didn’t get anything from its return game.

The only positive is that Lucas Havrisik continues to boot his kickoffs through the back of the end zone.

The loss of long snapper Nick Reinhardt has loomed large as Arizona’s placekicking has been ruined by bad snaps since his injury. Not good.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire