There won’t be any lingering quarterback controversy for the Arizona Wildcats this week.
Kevin Sumlin announced during Tuesday’s Pac-12 conference call that Khalil Tate will be out against the UCLA Bruins on Saturday and Rhett Rodriguez will make his first career start in his place.
Sumlin says Rhett Rodriguez will be starting at QB this week against UCLA.— Thuc Nhi Nguyen (@thucnhi21) October 16, 2018
Tate has been hobbled by an ankle injury all season and only lasted two series in Friday’s loss to Utah, before being knocked out.
Sumlin said Monday that he wanted to avoid another situation where Tate would start a game, only to exit early on.
“It looked to me like he could hardly hand the ball off. That’s why I got him out,” Sumlin said. “It’s a player safety issue. We’re never going to put anyone in harm’s way.”
True freshman Jamarye Joiner played two series Friday before Rodriguez took over for good. The sophomore was 20 for 38 for 226 yards and a touchdown, showing nice poise despite UA’s o-line being without starting left tackle Layth Friekh (who’s also dealing with an ankle injury).
Sumlin thought Rodriguez was a better fit against Utah than Joiner given his experience and the environment Arizona was in — a road game against the Pac-12’s best defense.
“I thought Rhett came in in a two-minute drill situation, which he had been used to, and moved us down the field and it gave him the right to start the second half,” Sumlin said.
“And then when he came back in the second half, he continued to move the ball. We thought he did a nice job in a very, very difficult situation, being down, being on the road. He looked very, very comfortable and poised throughout that time. I felt Rhett was doing as good a job as anyone could do at that point, and he continued to play.”
Sumlin said Monday that he preferred to sort out the QB situation as early as possible, presumably so whoever has to play in Tate’s place — in this case it’s Rodriguez — has ample to time to prepare with the first-team offense for Saturday’s game.
Here is UCLA coach Chip Kelly’s reaction to Tate’s absence:
Chip Kelly on Khalil Tate being out this week: "Well, we don't have to chase the fastest kid in the country around." But he added that it was sad because he how tough Tate is.— Thuc Nhi Nguyen (@thucnhi21) October 16, 2018
Rodriguez will become the first Tucson-area quarterback to start for Arizona since Bill Prickett in 1991.
Arizona’s offense has struggled this season even with Tate in the lineup, so it will be interesting to see how Rodriguez, a traditional pocket-passer, fares against the Bruins.
Kickoff at the Rose Bowl is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PT on ESPN2.
With Khalil Tate out, which Arizona QB would you start against UCLA?— AZ Desert Swarm (@AZDesertSwarm) October 16, 2018