Arizona Wildcats running back J.J. Taylor (21) streaks down the sideline en route to a kick return touchdown during the second quarter of the Arizona Wildcats vs. Southern Utah Thunderbirds college football game at Arizona Stadium, on Sept. 15, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.

After three games, the Kevin Sumlin era finally got a win after the Arizona Wildcats handled Southern Utah 62-31 Saturday night to end the nonconference schedule. 

Quarterback Khalil Tate finished the game with a career-high 349 yards on 13-of-20 passing and five touchdowns, which tied his single-game career-high dating back to the Foster Farms Bowl. 

The Wildcats tacked on two touchdowns after running backs Branden Leone and Anthony Mariscal scored early in the quarter to extend their lead. 

Safety Jarrius Wallace forced the first turnover of the season with an interception to start the fourth quarter, which resulted in Leone's touchdown. 


THIRD-QUARTER UPDATE:

The Arizona Wildcats finally are pulling away from pesky Southern Utah.

The Cats lead the Thunderbirds 48-17 entering the fourth quarter of their game at Arizona Stadium. Arizona is 15 minutes away from handing Kevin Sumlin his first victory as UA coach.

Leading by only seven at halftime, the Wildcats exploded for 24 unanswered points. Khalil Tate threw three touchdown passes in the quarter – including a 65-yarder to Shun Brown and a 75-yarder to Shawn Poindexter – and has tied his career high with five total TD tosses.

Tate has set a career high with 349 passing yards. He has completed 13 of 20 attempts.

Brown has five catches for 97 yards. Tony Ellison has four receptions for a career-high 111 yards.

The defense, which struggled in the first half, forced three-and-outs on Southern Utah’s first two possessions of the quarter. The Thunderbirds advanced to the 2-yard line on their third drive, but Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles stuffed Jay Green for no gain on fourth-and-goal.


HALFTIME UPDATE:

The Arizona Wildcats needed to come out and dominate Southern Utah. That hasn’t happened so far.

The Cats lead the Thunderbirds 24-17 at halftime of their game Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. It hasn’t been pretty, though.

Arizona has made some big plays, including an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by J.J. Taylor.

But the UA defense continues to struggle. Southern Utah pieced together one long drive after another, running 51 plays and possessing the ball for 22 minutes, 6 seconds. The Thunderbirds have outgained the Wildcats 242-233.

Arizona changed more than half its starters on defense and has rotated extensively. No matter what Marcel Yates tries, however, it’s not working.

Southern Utah has converted 6 of 12 third downs and 2 of 2 fourth downs. The fourth-down conversions came on the same possession in which Arizona forced two fumbles but couldn’t recover them. The drive ended with Jay Green’s 10-yard TD run.

After a Lucas Havrisik field goal, Southern Utah drove 75 yards in 13 plays. QB Chris Helbig’s 2-yard scramble tied the score at 17.

Arizona responded with an eight-play, 67-yard TD drive. Khalil Tate capped it with his second touchdown pass of the night, a scrambling 11-yarder to Shun Brown.

Tate is 7 of 12 for 134 yards. Tony Ellison has caught three passes for 102 yards and a score. Taylor has 53 rushing yards on seven attempts.

Jace Whittaker and Scottie Young Jr. started in Arizona’s secondary. But Whittaker didn’t play after the first few snaps, and Young didn’t appear to have a helmet late in the second quarter.


FIRST-QUARTER UPDATE:

The Arizona Wildcats are off to a good start against Southern Utah. Not great, but good.

The Cats lead the Thunderbirds 7-0 entering the second quarter of their game Saturday night at Arizona Stadium.

A new look UA defense — featuring six new starters and extensive rotating — held Southern Utah off the scoreboard. The Wildcats also recorded their first sack of the season, by Anthony Pandy.

Khalil Tate and Tony Ellison hooked up for a pair of passes on Arizona’s opening drive — a 55-yarder and a 17-yard touchdown.

But the Wildcats also lost a fumble. And a missed Southern Utah field goal was wiped out by a penalty.

The Thunderbirds were lining up for another field-goal try when the second quarter began.

Tate is 5 of 7 for 93 yards. Counterpart Chris Helbig is 6 of 8 for 49 yards.

Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or mlev@tucson.com. On Twitter @michaeljlev