Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate turned 19 Monday. He accomplished something that hadn’t been done since before he was born.
The UA sophomore sensation because the first player to be named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week three times in a row since USC quarterback Rodney Peete in 1988.
Tate accounted for 303 yards of offense and three touchdowns, including the winning TD pass, in Arizona’s 45-44 double-overtime victory at Cal on Saturday. It was the third straight game in which he totaled at least 300 yards and multiple scores.
What’s important to remember amid all the accolades and highlights is that Tate is still learning. He just turned 19. If he keeps working at it, he should only get better.
“Every game is going to be a new challenge for him,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. “There were a couple of throws, a couple of plays at the end of that game that we’d like to have back, that Khalil would like to have back. But those are learning moments for us.”
One such example occurred late in the fourth quarter. Facing third-and-6 from the Cal 43-yard line, Tate forced a ball downfield. Shawn Poindexter misjudged it, and Cal intercepted it.
Tate didn’t take a proper dropback, and he had Shun Brown open just beyond the first-down marker. A completion to Brown would have put Arizona in range for the go-ahead field goal.
“He should have thrown it to another guy,” Rodriguez said. “It was a drop (QB) coach (Rod) Smith and I have never seen before. It was a Khalil drop. He was drifting into an abyss or something before he threw it.
“It was very poorly executed. That play shouldn’t have happened. He’ll learn from it. He knew it right away, too.”
That’s the aspect of Tate’s approach that has impressed Rodriguez the most: Tate has an uncanny knack for quickly recognizing his mistakes and adjusting accordingly.
“More like a veteran quarterback than a guy who’s only started a couple games,” Rodriguez said. “He’s playing and showing more experience than what he has.
“There are still going to be moments. There were moments this last game. You’re like, ‘Oh, Khalil.’ But then there’s other moments like, ‘Oh, Khalil.’ You take the good with the bad.
“He loves to win, and he loves to compete. He is certainly taking advantage of his opportunity.”
Despite his growing fame, Tate has kept a low profile the past few weeks, especially on social media. He did take to Twitter on his birthday. The tweet began with three words: “A year wiser.”
Tate wasn’t the only Wildcat honored by the Pac-12 on Monday.
Freshman linebacker Colin Schooler was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week. Schooler broke up a pass in the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt at the end of the game that, if successful, would have given the Golden Bears the victory. He also had a career-high 15 tackles, including 1.5 for losses, and was credited with a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry.
“They did a double move,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a great route, a great goal-line play. He read it right, made a great play with two hands on the ball. You don’t see too many true freshman linebackers be able to make that play like he did.”
Tate and Schooler became the first Wildcats to be recognized in the same week since Nick Wilson and Drew Riggleman in 2014.
While Rodriguez supports the spirit of the NCAA’s targeting rules, he remains frustrated that they seem to be administered inconsistently.
Two Wildcats were ejected in the first quarter against Cal: safety Troy Young and tailback J.J. Taylor. Taylor’s foul, in particular, puzzled Rodriguez. Taylor leveled linebacker Cameron Goode with a high, hard block as Tate was scrambling.
“He didn’t lead with his crown, he didn’t launch, he didn’t intend to injure,” Rodriguez said. “Was he a defenseless player that’s chasing the quarterback? I thought he (Taylor) was trying to protect Khalil.
“I want to make it clear: The emphasis on targeting is good for the game as far as guys not leading with the crown of their helmet and for the safety of the players. In J.J.’s situation, I’m confused on that one a little bit.”
Rodriguez said Arizona would submit tape of that play and other targeting incidents to the league for clarification.
- Rodriguez didn’t address any specific injuries but said he was “hopeful” that the players who got banged up vs. Cal will be able to play against Washington State. Players who left the game and did not return included Wilson (ankle), linebacker Tony Fields II (concussion) and DE-LB Kylan Wilborn (ankle).
- Asked why Nathan Tilford didn’t play when Wilson and Taylor were lost, Rodriguez said the talented freshman is currently behind Zach Green and Branden Leon. “I like Nathan,” Rodriguez said. “He’s going to be good.”
- Rodriguez praised freshman tight end Bryce Wolma for his smarts on and off the field, as well as his ball skills and feel for the game. Wolma’s 22 receptions rank second on the team.
- Rodriguez said redshirt-freshman safety Jarrius Wallace, pressed into duty when Troy Young got booted for targeting, “wasn’t perfect” but “made some terrific plays.” The coaching staff now knows it can trust Wallace.
- Rodriguez said the line has been the constant in the offense’s success but that Washington State will present “our biggest challenge” and has “the best defense we’ve played so far.” The Cougars rank second in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (18.5 ppg) and total defense (274.0 ypg).
- Rodriguez described last year’s 69-7 loss at WSU as “embarrassing” and “terrible” but said Saturday’s game isn’t about revenge. “That was a long time ago,” he said. “This is a completely different team. Certainly, we’ve got a lot to prove against them.”
- The kickoff time and TV assignment for Arizona’s game at USC on Nov. 4 won’t be announced until next weekend. The TV networks have elected to use a six-day window for three Pac-12 games, including Cats-Trojans. There are three possible start times: 7:45 p.m. (ESPN), 12:30 p.m. (Fox) or 7 p.m. (FS1).