Arizona Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin reiterated Monday that there is no change in the quarterback pecking order heading into Saturday’s road game at Stanford.
Khalil Tate will start against the Cardinal and freshman Grant Gunnell will be an option off the bench should things go sour.
When Sumlin was asked how Arizona can help Tate get back on track after consecutive rough outings, he said: “It’s called practice and study and then ultimately it’s performance. What you do during the week, you try to simulate certain situations and different things but ultimately life plays off on results, right?“
The results were discouraging at USC, with Tate completing 6 of 10 passes for 47 yards. He was not a factor on the ground, either, being held to minus-27 rushing yards thanks, in part, to six sacks.
That was on the heels of a lackluster performance against Washington in which Tate went 13 for 25 for 184 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a 51-27 loss.
However, Sumlin was sure to note that Arizona’s offensive woes have not just been a QB-driven issue. The offensive line struggled in pass protection, particularly against USC’s array of blitzes, and Arizona’s running game has been marred by injuries and inconsistency, averaging less than four yards per carry over the last four games.
“We had pressure, we had different things happen,” Sumlin said.
Gunnell replaced Tate midway through the third quarter and finished the game, though Sumlin said there was a chance Tate would have reentered had things not gotten out of hand.
Gunnell was intercepted on his first series, then went 3-and-out, as the Trojans’ lead ballooned from 20-0 to 34-0 early in the fourth.
Eventually, the freshman settled in and completed 16 of 26 passes for 196 yards and two TDs.
“I just told him to stay ready, get going, stay warm,” Sumlin said of Tate. “He was into the game. He was in the huddles on the sideline on defense and everything else. We just didn’t pull him out of the game and not say anything to him. He knew there was a possibility based on where we were in that game that he was going to come back and play. So that conversation was had. But as things started to unfold and get out of hand with Grant, we decided to leave him in there and let him get some great experience.”
Sumlin said he is in daily communication with Tate, with conversation topics including “all kinds of stuff.”
“A lot of things that have nothing to do with football. We talk about a lot of things that have everything to do with football,” Sumlin said. “Progress, goals, leadership, body language.”
While Tate’s play needs to improve for the Wildcats to have a chance to beat Stanford, Sumlin said he is more concerned about getting a response out of the entire team, listing offensive efficiency, turnovers, and field position as the keys to snapping the two-game losing streak in Palo Alto.
“Everybody is making [the quarterbacks] the situation,” Sumlin said. “We just lost a game on the road 41-14. So the first thing I have to do is get a response out of our football team. That’s where we are, and then individual players we deal with from there. That was the impetus today at the team meeting.”