An in-conference winning streak?
The 42-34 victory moves Arizona to 4-3 in conference play and keeps them firmly in the hunt for a Pac-12 South crown with two games remaining. And with how this team has looked the past two weeks, maybe there’s still a chance?
Here’s what we learned about the Cats on a late Friday night in the desert.
1. Khalil Tate is (mostly) back
Last year, Tate burst onto the scene against this Colorado team by breaking the NCAA single-game rushing record for a quarterback.
This year, he set new career-highs for TD passes and passing yards in a game.
Tate completed 17 of his 22 pass attempts for 350 yards. He connected with eight different receivers and ended up with five touchdown passes.
Oh, and he broke off a season-long 25-yard run.
There was a short period of time where that left ankle injury seemed to reappear, but otherwise Tate looked like the healthiest version of himself. And his stats certainly back that up.
If Tate’s throwing game can be this effective along with the rushing attack Arizona has now, who knows what the last two games could look like.
2. This defensive line is the best Arizona has had in a long time
Sure Arizona has the NCAA’s all-time sacks leader as an alum, but this current iteration of the defensive line is among the best in school history.
When you’re looking at recent times, it’s not hard to have a better defensive line than a lot of those teams, and that’s exactly what we’re looking at right now. The combination of JB Brown, Dereck Boles, and PJ Johnson is getting the job done up front in ways Arizona fans have not seen in over a decade.
Arizona had five sacks and ten TFLs on Friday night. That’s only the second time since 2014 the Wildcats have had that many sacks in a game against an FBS opponent.
There were plenty of instances against Colorado that Arizona only rushed four yet still got pressure on Steven Montez, forcing him to either throw the ball away or try and scramble, resulting in a big hit on the Buffs’ quarterback.
With inexperienced corners and a very hot-and-cold safeties group, the defensive line playing like this will be a huge key to keeping the momentum going.
3. J.J. Taylor is more than capable of being a featured back
Gary Brightwell missed this game with an injury, which resulted in J.J. Taylor getting 40(!) carries.
Taylor answered the call admirably.
He ended up with 192 yards, and some of his best runs came in the closing minutes to seal the victory. No one will be happier to see the bye than Taylor, who has now toted the ball 70 times in the last six days.
As long as the offensive line continues to play at this higher level that they’re playing at right now, it will only help Taylor regain his confidence after being pretty ineffective earlier in the year.
Bonus: Arizona will ride the hot foot
Special teams have been pretty disappointing this year, and a missed extra point in the second quarter looked like it would be costly at the time.
But even with the missed PAT, both Josh Pollack and Lucas Havrisik got their cracks at field goals, and the two combined to go 3-for-3, all from 41+ yards out.
If having specialty field goal kickers is what it takes, I’m here for it. And those nine points in a game like this were huge.