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Bye week ‘can only help’ Khalil Tate return to form

Colorado v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A week off did wonders for Khalil Tate a few weeks ago when he sat out against UCLA to rest the ankle that has been hindering him all season.

In two games since, the junior quarterback has thrown for 539 yards and eight touchdowns, completing 65 percent of his passes, leading the Arizona Wildcats to wins over Oregon and Colorado, as they have emerged as legitimate Pac-12 South contenders.

Tate even broke out for a 25-yard run against the Buffaloes, his longest gain of the season.

“Obviously he looks healthier,” Coach Kevin Sumlin said Monday. “(Against Colorado) that’s the first time we’ve seen him run like that in a long time. You always appreciate something that you really like to do and can’t do, and that’s been a struggle for him when he’s played, and it had to be a struggle for him to go to Los Angeles and not play. I think he’s made the most of the last couple of weeks.”

And now Tate gets another opportunity to get closer to full strength, thanks to a well-timed bye week, before the Wildcats head to Pullman next Saturday for a massive game against the Washington State Cougars.

“These two weeks can only help him,” Sumlin said.

While Tate’s arm has come alive lately, he has yet to re-establish himself as a runner. He did have that 25-yard scamper against Colorado, but he still only rushed for 15 yards in that game on four carries.

Tate has not rushed for more than 40 yards in a game all season, a huge surprise considering he topped the century mark in six games last year, including a trio of 200-plus yard games.

Some have stipulated that is the product of UA’s new coaching staff trying to mold him in a pocket-passer to fit the offense, but Sumlin dismissed that notion in an interview with Yahoo! Sports.

“Everyone thinks I’m trying to change his game,” Sumlin said. “He’s been hurt. The hardest part for me is that the kid is tough enough to play, but he’s not himself. He’s getting healthier by the week.”

And once Tate is healthy, Sumlin thinks his signal caller can recapture some of the scrambling ability he displayed last season when he took the college football world by storm.

“He took off tonight and ran, but there are two other times he could have done that and probably should have just put the ball down and taken off, but he threw a couple touchdowns doing that, too,” Sumlin said after the Colorado game.

“So I think as his health gets better, he understands things a lot more than he did at the beginning of the year and I think you see some confidence in him too, because that’s as fast as I have seen him since spring football.”