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6 takeaways from Arizona’s win vs. Cal

Saturday’s win certainly came at a cost

Arizona v California Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats escaped Berkeley with a 45-44 double overtime win over the California Golden Bears on Saturday.

Our recap for the game is here, and below are some additional takeaways.


The win came at a cost

The worst part of Saturday’s win was the number of injuries Arizona suffered.

And they were all to starters/key players.

Nick Wilson, Tony Fields II, Dereck Boles, and Kylan Wilborn all exited early. Not to mention the team was already without starting free safety Scottie Young Jr. and his backup, Troy Young, got ejected for targeting. Same with J.J. Taylor.

The encouraging part was how their replacements performed. Zach Green had a career night in Wilson and Taylor’s absence. Jarrius Wallace, filling in for both Youngs, intercepted Ross Bowers in the end zone.

Finton Connolly and Justin Belknap helped make up for the loss of Wilborn and Boles.

While we won’t know the significance of any of those injuries for a while, it’s comforting to know that Arizona has serviceable depth on its roster, which wasn’t the case the past two seasons.


Khalil Tate is for real

It’s now three games in a row in which Tate has destroyed worlds.

After the Colorado game, I was skeptical that Tate was a one-game wonder. That skepticism waned significantly after his performance vs. UCLA, and now it’s nearly vanished after the Cal game.

True, Tate didn’t post the same astronomical numbers he did against CU and UCLA, but the same skills were on display.

He made defenders miss, he created something out of nothing, he made the right reads more often than not, and he showed another instance of his ability to connect down the field with perfectly-placed throws.

This Cal defense isn’t great, but it was one that gave Luke Falk trouble the week before, and Tate mostly had his way with it.

I still think Tate is going to regress to some degree — it’s nearly impossible not to — but at minimum, we can say that he is, in fact, good.

Even national college football media is starting to pick up on Tate’s excellence, and he even got some Heisman Trophy love from the Washington Post.


This team can win the Pac-12 South

As Arizona took on Cal, USC was embarrassed by Notre Dame in South Bend, falling 49-14.

The Trojans, deemed as the far-and-away favorite to win the Pac-12 South this year, haven’t been as good as advertised.

Arizona is only half a game behind them in the Pac-12 standings with the matchup in Los Angeles still to be played, leaving the door open for the Wildcats to win the South.

While I don’t think Arizona will win the Pac-12 South, the fact Arizon has a chance and controls its own fate is remarkable considering how down in the dumps the program was after the loss to Utah.

Khalil Tate, man.


Hey, at least they’re forcing turnovers

Arizona’s defense had another poor performance, allowing Cal to convert on 13 of 19 third downs and tally 473 yards (though that number is a little inflated because the game went to double overtime).

This may have been the secondary’s worst game as Bowers and his receivers were able to find openings everywhere on the field, especially in the flat and over the middle.

Arizona only had one sack, too.

But what the defense did do well, and has all season, is generate turnovers. Wallace and Lorenzo Burns each picked off Bowers, and Wallace’s interception directly took points off the board as it occurred in the end zone.

Granted, both plays were head-scratching throws by Bowers (though you have to give credit to Wilborn for getting pressure on Bowers on Wallace’s INT), but Arizona does seem to have a knack for making their opponents make mistakes.

The Wildcats only generated 14 turnovers all of last season, but this season they’ve already forced 15 turnovers. And that’s in five fewer games.


Running back pecking order is strange

I’m not really sure what the deal is with Nathan Tilford, but it was shocking that he didn’t get any playing time with Wilson and Taylor missing most of the game.

Green did a phenomenal job anyway, but it was interesting that Branden Leon, a former walk-on who’s rarely ever used, got carries over Tilford, a former four-star recruit.

Tilford has only gotten carries in two games this year, but he’s appeared in six games, according to his player page, meaning a redshirt year is off the table.

So why isn’t he playing? Who knows, but it’s not a good sign that Arizona’s top 2017 recruit can’t break the running back rotation even when the top two options are unavailable.


Kicking game is awful

This game would not have even gone to overtime if Josh Pollack made that 43-yard field goal attempt as the first half came to a close.

It didn’t look like that was an instance where there was a bad snap or hold, either.

Pollack is 8-12 on field goals this season, and just 2-4 on kicks from 40 or more yards out.

With the rocket-legged Lucas Havrisik waiting in the wings, you wonder how much longer Pollack will stay atop the depth chart.

Arizona’s punting game is an issue, too.

Jake Glatting is only averaging 36.5 yards per punt, ranking 157th in the nation. I’m not entirely sure what Arizona’s options are, though Pollack did average 42.3 yards per punt last year.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire