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3 up, 3 down in Arizona’s 38-35 loss to Purdue

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Arizona’s second half comeback comes up just short

NCAA Football: Foster Farms Bowl-Arizona vs Purdue Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats lost a heartbreaker to the Purdue Boilermakers on Wednesday night, losing 38-35 after Khalil Tate threw an interception on a potential game-winning drive.

Our full recap can be found here, and here are three positive and three negative takeaways from the loss.


3 Up

Tate’s Arm

There’s no question Khalil Tate was Arizona’s MVP, throwing for 302 yards and five touchdowns. The running game has been both Tate and Arizona’s strength this season, but Purdue did a fantastic job containing it.

Arizona managed to stay in the game almost solely thanks to Tate’s arm. There was only one truly bad throw, the interception that ended the game, and most of his touchdown throws were dimes.

If Tate can develop his game IQ a little bit (more on that later) and maintain his athleticism, Arizona has a real star on its hands.

Youth

Speaking of development, basically this whole Arizona team will get the chance to improve over the summer since almost everyone is returning. Almost the entire defense will be back, and the offense will lose very few contributors outside of the offensive line and Nick Wilson.

While the season ended at 7-6 and the ‘Cats finished 1-4 in their last five, this is a team with a young core that has showed promise. It’s hard to imagine the team regressing in 2018 or 2019, especially if Tate maintains his output and young defenders like Colin Schooler become standout leaders.

Perseverance

Losing the game in the final moments after coming all the way back from a 17-point halftime deficit obviously hurts, but the fact that such a young team came back at all is a fantastic sign.

Instead of giving up, which they easily could’ve done, they battled back to take the lead with three minutes remaining in the game. Arizona’s defense improved in the second half, and Tate was an offensive star the whole game.


3 Down

Poor Tackling

Poor may be a bit of an understatement. The Arizona defense struggled to bring down any Purdue players in the open field, especially early in the game. Purdue’s first two drives were a perfect example of how not to tackle.

The third quarter and most of the fourth was a much better showing by the Wildcats, but a few more breakdowns late helped the Boilermakers hold on for the victory. The winning touchdown could’ve ended at the two-yard line if Lorenzo Burns had made an admittedly tough play.

Either way, the defense has to play better next year, especially in the open field.

Dumb Mistakes

This was the overwhelming theme of this game. Arizona couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot no matter how hard they tried, and it was the main reason Purdue won the game.

The special teams broke down yet again, as not only did Jake Glatting miss badly on a punt, a costly roughing the punter penalty on J.J. Taylor extended a Purdue drive that eventually turned into a touchdown to give the Boilermakers a 21-14 lead.

Another alarming mistake that happened often was Khalil Tate unnecessarily running out of bounds. A few times Tate could’ve thrown the ball away to save yards, but instead ran out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage. That’s an area he’ll need to improve on in the summer.

Running Game Contained

It can’t be overstated how well the Purdue defensive front performed. However, Arizona’s running game has been one of the strongest in the nation, and to see them thoroughly shut down was disconcerting. They were held to just 128 rushing yards.

Arizona has four legitimate running threats with varying strengths in Khalil Tate, Zach Green, J.J. Taylor, and Nick Wilson, but none of them could do much, with Tate leading the team with 58 yards on 20 carries.

If Arizona wants to become the Pac-12 contender it can be next season, they need to have an effective running game even against stout defenses.


Arizona finished the season 7-6 and 5-4 in Pac-12 play. They start the 2018 season against the BYU Cougars in Tucson on September 1.