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Arizona to continue rotating Khalil Tate and Grant Gunnell in two-quarterback system

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arizona-wildcats-football-starting-quarterback-khalil-tate-grant-gunnell-oregon-state-sumlin Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There are a lot of moving parts in the Arizona Wildcats’ football program right now.

Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and linebackers coach John Rushing were fired after Saturday’s 41-31 loss to Stanford, and on the other side of the ball the Wildcats are still sorting out their quarterback situation.

Arizona used both senior Khalil Tate and freshman Grant Gunnell against the Cardinal, a 1-2 punch that head coach Kevin Sumlin was impressed by—and wants to see more of.

“We feel comfortable with both those guys,” he said. “We’ll work through it during the week, and I think more than anything else our team feels comfortable with both of them because they’ve seen both of them operate in pressure situations and then on the road or in different areas.

“So that’s going to continue and I kind of like it. I kind of like the competition. They’re two different guys and I think in the first half, they showed that they were two different people. (Khalil) took it and ran for 60-some yards, the other guy was 5 for 5 on his drive in an RPO system. I think it also creates some issues for people to prepare.”

But not his players. Sumlin said it was always the plan for Gunnell to enter in the third series of the game, though Tate said Saturday he knew “it was a probability” and that he “wasn’t sure how exactly it was going to work out.”

Tate went 8 for 10 for 117 yards and a touchdown in the first two quarters, along with the aforementioned long TD run.

Gunnell started 5 for 5 for 50 yards, looking calm and collected in the pocket while delivering accurate throws.

Then the wheels fell of a bit in a second half in which the Wildcats could only muster 10 points. Tate, who fired 10 straight incompletions at one point, finished 17 for 33 for 205 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions plus 107 rushing yards.

Gunnell, who only played one series in the second half, finished 7 for 7 for 68 yards and a touchdown. His biggest mistake was taking a sack to push the Wildcats out of field goal range early in the fourth quarter.

It is fair to wonder how the QB rotation affected the rhythm of the offense, so Sumlin said the way Arizona will use its signal-callers is “something we’re going to continue to investigate.”

“But obviously both of those guys are capable of being successful and how we manage that, everybody is gonna second guess,” he said. “But there’s a lot of people that (play two quarterbacks) at every level, and I think the important thing is, although we did not win the game, I thought that both of them, because of the change of pace and because you take pressure off of a guy, were extremely effective, particularly in the first half.”

When asked if he wished he would have gotten Gunnell into the mix earlier in the season, Sumlin was clear that he didn’t think the freshman was ready for the role he has now.

“Grant’s a lot different player [now] than he was Week 1,” Sumlin said. “That’s just being honest.”