SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION – Arizona

Note … Previews for CU’s opponents will be posted each week leading up to the start of Fall Camp … Previously posted: Colorado StateNebraskaAir ForceArizona State

2019 Game Five – Colorado v. Arizona – October 5th

Last game between Colorado and Arizona – October 2, 2018

… Arizona 42, Colorado 34 … 

Game Story … A year after burning Colorado for 327 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, Arizona quarterback Kahlil Tate torched the Buff secondary for 350 yards and five touchdowns through the air, leading the Wildcats to a 42-34 win over the Buffs. Tate went 17-for-22 passing, needing to carry the ball only four times, relying on running back J.J. Taylor (40 carries for 192 yards) to carry the rushing load.

In all, the Arizona offense went for 566 yards of total offense, compared to 386 for Colorado. Quarterback Steven Montez went 27-for-42 passing, good for 343 yards and three touchdowns. Juwann Winfree had eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown, but it was the Colorado rushing attack which failed to keep up with Arizona. While Arizona had 216 yards rushing, the Buffs were held to 40. Travon McMillian contributed 11 carries for 59 yards, but Steven Montez was sacked five times, setting the CU offense back time and time again.

“I thought our kids battled,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We had opportunities to win the football game. They made some big plays. Khalil ran around and threw it up in the air and their guys came down with it on long, delayed plays. Those were tough to stop”.

Continue reading story here

… Essay for the game … “The Definition of Insanity” … can be found here

2018 Arizona results – 5-7 (4-5 in Pac-12 play)

– 2018 Arizona National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 43rd … 31,3 points per game  (Colorado scoring defense – 70th … 27.3 points per game)

— Rushing – 32nd (No. 1 in the Pac-12) … 202.4 yards per game   (Colorado rushing defense – 44th … 145.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 39th … 255.3 yards per game   (Colorado passing defense – 74th … 234.7 yards per game)

— Total – 24th (No. 1 in the Pac-12) … 457.7 yards per game  (Colorado total defense – 52nd … 380.3 yards per game)

– 2018 Arizona National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 98th … 32.6 points per game  (Colorado scoring offense – 79th … 27.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 64th … 162.5 yards per game (Colorado rushing offense – 99th … 143.0 yards per game)

— Passing – 121st (last in the Pac-12) … 269.5 yards per game (Colorado passing offense – 45th … 249.6 yards per game)

— Total – 92nd … 432.0 yards per game  (Colorado total offense – 74th … 392.6 yards per game)

Arizona storylines … 

– Kahlil Tate will win the Heisman Trophy if … 

… he could play Colorado 12 times a season.

The Buff defense has done all it can the past two seasons making Kahlil Tate look like a Heisman favorite.

As CU fans are well aware, the Buff defense was shredded by Tate for an FBS record 327 yards rushing in in the 2017 game in Boulder. Tate followed that up last year by passing for 350 yards and five touchdowns.

If Tate had posted those numbers for 12 games in either season, he would have been at the New York Downtown Athletic Club being interviewed by Chris Fowler.

That being said, despite the other-worldly performances by Tate, the Buffs woulda/coulda/shoulda won both games.

In the 2017 game, a 45-42 final,the Buffs scored with five minutes remaining to make it 45-42, but the Wildcats converted on a pair of third downs to keep the ball away from the CU offense to finish off the win.

In the 2018 game, a 42-34 final, the Buffs were within that one score margin for the final 13 minutes of the game, but couldn’t get the equalizing touchdown.

Translation … if the Buffs can find a way keep Kahlil Tate to just above average numbers, there is no reason why CU should not only be in the October 5th game in Boulder, but win it.

Players make plays

Last fall, in the first year under Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the productivity of Kahlil Tate suffered. Tate’s completion percentage dropped from 62 percent to 56 percent, and his rushing yards (with injuries) dropped from 1,411 to 224. Even with those numbers, the Wildcats led the Pac-12 in total offense, with 457.7 yards per game.

If Arizona is going to be successful on offense this year, Tate will be relying on junior running back J.J. Taylor, who ran for 1,434 yards last fall (including 192 v. Colorado). The Wildcats will need the Tate/Taylor combo to continue to work, as all three of Arizona’s top wide receivers from 2018 are gone.

How did Arizona have the best offense in the Pac-12 last season, and still finish with a 5-7 record?

Easy … the Wildcats had one of the worst defenses in the nation.

Arizona finished 90th or worse (and 10th in the Pac-12 or worse) in passing, total, and scoring defense. Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates was a surprise holdover from the Rich Rodriguez era, and the defense failed to improve.

The Wildcat defense has some of the same problems as does Colorado. The defensive line has potential, but painfully little depth, with only one returning starter. The linebacker corps, however, is a strength, with the top two tacklers from 2018, Colin Schooler and Tony Fields, returning.

The defensive backfield is a good news/bad news situation.

The good news: three players with a combined 44 starts, plus senior cornerback Jace Whittaker, who missed the 2018 season, return.

The bad news: that unit gave up 269.5 yards per game, last in the Pac-12 and 121st in the nation.

How the Buffs fit into the Wildcats’ 2019 schedule

Colorado fans tend to cringe when road games against Hawai’i are mentioned. In 2011 and again in 2015, the Buffs traveled to the islands to open the season, and the results were ugly.

In case you feel the need to relive the anguish, here are links to the 2011 game (a 34-17 loss) and the 2015 debacle (a 28-20 defeat).

The relevance to our story, of course, is that Arizona opens its 2019 season, on the road, at Hawai’i.

The Rainbow Warriors went 8-6 last season, including a surprising 43-34 road win over Colorado State to open the season, so they can not be overlooked by the Wildcats.

If Arizona can get past Hawai’i in Week Zero, the Wildcats will get the next two weeks off … as in a bye week and then Northern Arizona at home.

Then it gets interesting.

Arizona’s next two games are also at home, against Texas Tech and UCLA (with another bye week in between). The Red Raiders went 5-7 last season, and the Bruins went 3-9, but both teams are far from cake walks for the Wildcats.

Even though only one of Arizona’s first four opponents had winning records in 2018, the Wildcants may not come through September  unscathed. With CU arguably on a more-or-less equal footing with teams like UCLA, Texas Tech, and yes, even Hawai’i, how Arizona fares in the opening third of its season will give Buff fans a pretty fair indication of CU’s chances when the Wildcats come to Boulder October 5th.

Bottom Line

Part of CU’s redemption tour of 2016 was to take out teams which had held spells over the Buffs. One of those teams was Arizona State, which held a 7-0 all-time record when the Sun Devils came to Boulder in October of that season.

The result? Not only a victory, but a convincing 40-16 cleansing.

When Arizona comes to Boulder this October, there will be a week of stories about the Kahlil Tate coming out party from the 2017 season. Tate was a backup quarterback before the CU game, and left Boulder with an FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback. The 45-42 loss seemed to break the spirit of the Buffs, who were thereafter unable to sustain their 2016 momentum, falling to a 5-7 final record.

The Buffs haven’t felt like – or looked like – the 2016 Buffs since that Arizona debacle.

A win over Arizona this fall will go a long ways toward spinning the program back in a positive direction. It would help to bury the memory of the 2017 home defeat to Tate & Co., and help re-establish the Buffs as a legitimate player in the Pac-12 South.

CU’s remaining home games after Arizona … USC, Stanford, and Washington.

Beat Arizona in the first game of October, and the remainder of the schedule opens up with a number of exciting possibilities.

Lose to Arizona in the first game of October, and the remainder of the schedule looks daunting.

In Tuck we Trust …

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