TUCSON – The Arizona Wildcats are set to host Oregon State in the final home game of the season Saturday night. Game time is set for 8:15 p.m. on ESPN2.
It will mark the the last home game for 18 seniors. These games are always bittersweet and often emotional, but with a pair of road games on deck, the script is far from written for this senior class.
Arizona saw its four-game win streak snapped last week as a comeback bid fell short against USC. The key now is making sure the Trojans don’t beat the Wildcats this week, too.
Motivation should be high for the Wildcats, even though they welcome a winless Oregon State squad to town. After all, it was this time last year the Beavers handed the Cats an eighth-straight loss. This time around, Arizona has a chance to return the favor.
However, circumstances are a bit different. OSU has shown a renewed spirit the last three games under the direction of interim head coach Cory Hall. Often times, underdogs relish the opportunity to spoil the expectations when facing adversity the way the Beavers have throughout the year. To that end, expect Oregon State to play loose, aggressive and perhaps come with a few tricks up its sleeve.
This is a series dominated this century by Oregon State, which has won 13 of the last 16 meetings. A win for the Wildcats would bolster prospects for December bowl destinations and ensure a winning conference record with a couple more games to come.
Thank You, Seniors
Saturday marks the final home game for 18 players. These seniors will go out having secured the program’s fifth bowl berth in the last six seasons.
For most, they were a part of the 2014 Pac-12 South Championship team that earned a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. Yet after an injury-riddled 2016 season that produced a 3-9 record, most all prognosticators picked the Wildcats dead last in the Pac-12 South this year.
Led by a determined senior class, Arizona used the last-place predictions as motivation for a season of redemption. It’s perhaps the most meaningful accomplishment yet for this senior class, and they’re work isn’t quite done.
In the last five games alone, Khalil Tate has rushed for 1,001 yards and nine touchdowns on 85 carries. Adding in limited action from two earlier games, the sophomore has 1,087 net yards on 95 carries this season.
He is the first Pac-12 quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, topping the previous record of 986 yards set by Washington’s Jake Locker in 2007.
Tate officially eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on his 20th carry of the Nov. 4 game at USC, which was his 89th rush attempt of this season. According to research by ESPN and College Football Reference, current Stanford running back Bryce Love reached 1,000 yards on his 87th carry this season. That is the fewest carries needed to reach 1,000 rushing yards by an FBS player since at least 2000.
Arizona’s previous single-season quarterback rushing record was held by current offensive analyst B.J. Denker, who tallied 949 yards in 2013. Junior quarterback Brandon Dawkins, who has 358 rushing yards this season, was close to the mark a year ago, rushing for 944 yards.
Tate’s High Five
Quarterback Khalil Tate, who last week was named one of 18 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, has strung together an incredible five-game run since the beginning of October.
The Wildcats are 4-1 in that stretch with their only setback coming last week at No. 17 USC, a game in which Tate helped rally the team from a 22-6 deficit to tie things 35-35 midway through the fourth quarter.
Despite the loss, Tate rushed for 162 yards, totaled 307 yards of offense and accounted for three touchdowns. Since Oct. 1, Tate leads all FBS players with 1,001 rushing yards (next closest: Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor – 850 yards).
Additionally, Tate now leads all FBS quarterbacks with a QBR of 96.1, ahead of Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), Lamar Jackson (Louisville) and J.T. Barrett (Ohio State) who round out an impressive top five.