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Khalil Tate’s arm, JJ Taylor’s legs power Arizona past Colorado

<span data-author="5158751">arizona-wildcats-colorado-buffaloes-jj-taylor-khalil-tate-recap </span> Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats didn’t score on their first possession Friday night against the Colorado Buffaloes. Every other time that’s happened this season they’ve lost.

So much for trends.

After looking abysmal on offense for almost the entire first quarter, falling behind 10-0 in the process, Arizona exploded for scores on eight consecutive drives en route to a 42-34 win over Colorado.

The Wildcats won their second straight game to improve to 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the Pac-12. They enter their bye week needing only one more win to become bowl-eligible.

Khalil Tate threw for a career-high 350 yards and tied his career best with five touchdown passes, needing only 22 attempts and 17 completions to do so, while JJ Taylor followed up last week’s big game against Oregon with 192 yards on a career-best 40 carries.

Four different Wildcats caught TD passes from Tate, with Shawn Poindexter scoring on both of his receptions. Arizona outgained Colorado 566-383 to move to 6-2 against the Buffaloes (5-4, 2-4) since they joined the Pac-12 in 2011.

Arizona held a scant 26-24 lead at the half, scoring all 26 of those points in the second quarter, but Colorado converted a trio of third downs, each longer than the one before, on an 11-play, 75-yard drive to go up 31-26 with 9:26 left in the third.

Steven Montez’s 20-yard TD pass to Tony Brown came after he’d completed passes on 3rd-and-5 and 3rd-and-15 and then a deep pass on 3rd-and-20 induced a pass interference flag.

Arizona didn’t waste much time going back ahead, using a mix of hard runs by Taylor to set up a deep ball from Tate. He hit Poindexter behind two defenders for a 39-yard score—the fourth consecutive reception Poindexter has had that resulted in a TD—to put the Wildcats ahead 32-31 with 7:11 to go after a failed two-point conversion.

The first defensive stop since midway through the second quarter gave Arizona a chance to get some breathing room but after getting to the Colorado 18 the drive stalled. The Wildcats settled for a 41-yard Josh Pollack field goal to go up 35-31 with 2:39 left in the third.

A 48-yard field goal by Colorado’s Tyler Francis on the final play of the third quarter narrowed Arizona’s edge to 35-34.

Tate’s fifth TD pass of the night, a 57-yard to Cedric Peterson—in which Peterson did most of the work along with his downfield blockers—upped the Wildcats’ edge to 42-34 with 13:04 left.

Colorado was stopped on fourth down inside the Arizona 30 on its next possession, but instead of bleeding out the clock the Wildcats stayed aggressive and it backfired. Tate was flushed on third down and tried to lead Taylor running up the sideline but instead overthrew him and was intercepted by Colorado’s Derrion Rakestraw with 7:22 left.

The Buffaloes quickly moved into the red zone before Montez was intercepted by Troy Young at the 1-yard line with 5:07 left. Montez was 27 of 42 for 343 yards with three TDs and the pick.

Arizona then iced the game with the run, Taylor clinching things with a 21-yard gain on 3rd-and-6 with less than two minutes to go.

With as much scoring as there was Friday, early on it didn’t look like points were going to be aplenty.

Colorado took a 7-0 lead with 5:35 left in the first quarter on an 8-yard run by receiver KD Nixon, capping an 11-play drive that saw the Buffaloes convert a pair of third down plays. That was after the Buffaloes squandered a 59-yard punt return from Ronnie Blackmon by losing a fumble inside the Arizona 10-yard line when they went for it on fourth down.

Arizona went three-and-out on its first two possessions and its third was even worse, with Taylor fumbling on first down and Colorado recovering at the Wildcats’ 8.

Somehow, Arizona’s defense held Colorado to a 25-yard field goal for only a 10-0 deficit.

The Wildcats got on the board early in the second quarter on a 49-yard field goal by Lucas Havrisik, which came after Tate ran out of bounds seven yards behind the line of scrimmage on third down.

After gaining just 69 yards on its first four possessions, Arizona went 62 yards in four plays with Tate hitting Stanley Berryhill on a 40-yard TD strike to tie it at 10. Tate then connected with Poindexter on a 1-yard pass to give the Wildcats their first lead, 17-10, with 6:15 left in the first half.

Colorado tied it at 17 on a 17-yard TD pass from Montez to a wide-open Kyle Evans, after Jarrius Wallace blitzed from the edge and no one else guarded the running back out of the backfield.

That was with 2:50 left in the second quarter. The teams managed to score three more times before the half, all in the final 59 seconds.

Tate’s third TD pass of the first half, a 12-yarder to Shun Brown, put Arizona back in front but only by six after Pollack missed the PAT. That allowed Colorado to go up 23-17 with 33 seconds to go on a 57-yard TD pass from Montez to Travon McMillian after Wallace tried to jump the route and make an interception but missed badly.

Arizona managed to get into field goal range with one second to go, setting up Havrisik to hit a 55-yard field goal and put the Wildcats up 26-24 at the break.