On October 7, 2017, the college football world found another star in the making. His name was Khalil Tate, and he embarrassed the Colorado Buffaloes‘ defense with 243 passing yards, 237 rushing yards, and four total touchdowns in a 45-42 victory.
Then, one year later in Tuscon, Tate lit up the Buffaloes defense for 350 yards in a 42-34 victory.
And while the Buffaloes hoped the third time against Khalil Tate would be the charm, Tate returned to Folsom Field this past weekend and led the Wildcats to another victory over Colorado.
While Tate’s performance drew eerie similarities to past years, there was one overriding difference from previous Arizona vs. Colorado games: the coaches.
Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre were the coaches, but even with Kevin Sumlin at the helm for Arizona and Mel Tucker leading the Buffs, Tate still posted a career-high passing performance, with 404 yards through the air, leaving the Buffaloes at a precarious position of 3-2 with a road trip to Oregon awaiting the Buffaloes in college football Week 7.
🅰️ 404 passing yards and 3 TDs— Rose Bowl Game (@rosebowlgame) October 7, 2019
🅰️ 3rd all-time at Arizona with 52 passing TDs and 7,585 yards of total offense
🅰️ 4th career #RoseBowl @pac12 Player of the Week honor
Congrats to @ArizonaFBall QB, Khalil Tate! pic.twitter.com/6LfzND56Iq
Setting the Table For 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 7
The Buffaloes, coming out of their bye week, had to deal without star wide receiver Laviska Shenault and standout linebacker Mustafa Johnson for this tilt. Shenault is dealing with a core muscle injury, and Johnson has a high-ankle sprain.
And at first, things looked good. The offense showed they wanted to take control of the division, opening the game with a 13-play drive that saw them take an early 3-0 lead.
Defensively, despite Johnson’s absence the Buffaloes managed to contain Khalil Tate on Arizona’s first drive. After two first downs, Tate missed three consecutive passes as the Buffaloes forced Arizona to punt. First test: pass.
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However, the Buffaloes could not build upon their first drive on defense, and Khalil Tate started his aerial assault on the Buffaloes defense. The Colorado defense responded well enough to keep the game within striking distance, but the offense could not reciprocate the defense’s efforts.
Arizona’s defense came to show they would not be pushed around by the Buffaloes either. This was in stark contrast to the two previous matchups of these teams. The defenses finally made their presence felt.
The Buffaloes also weren’t helping themselves, as they played undisciplined football in the first half. They had numerous penalties that set the team back, and then Daniel Arias dropped a sure touchdown that would’ve given the Buffaloes a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. Instead, the drive ended in a punt. Seven points, gone by the wayside.
The referees did not do the Buffaloes any favors either. They took away a defensive fumble returned for a touchdown for the Buffaloes with 2:28 left due to forward progress being stopped.
However, the Buffaloes would get their turnover later in the drive as Mikial Onu came up with yet another clutch defensive play, picking off Khalil Tate. On the next play, Jay Johnson had another trick up his sleeve, as Steven Montez pitched the ball to Jaren Mangham, who then pitched it to wide receiver K.D. Nixon. Nixon threw a dime to fellow wideout Dimitri Stanley for a touchdown to give the Buffs the lead. This set off the end-of-the-half fireworks.
Arizona would take the lead right back, but 1:40 would be plenty of time for the Buffaloes to strike as well. Montez led the Buffaloes right down the field, and found Brady Russell on a scramble-drill play with three seconds left to give the Buffaloes the 20-14 lead.
Colorado responds with a 2-minute drive and scores on this chaotic scramble and TD toss from Steven Montez. Leaves only 3 seconds on the clock. pic.twitter.com/C3dK61zCfY— MyBookie Sportsbook (@betmybookie) October 5, 2019
However, first-half excitement was not over. Arizona looked to have had a chance at retaking the lead into halftime, as they nearly returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Luckily for the Buffaloes, Arizona returner Jamarye Joiner stepped out of bounds before he raced down the sideline into the endzone. Another potential crisis averted.
A Doomed Second Half
In the second half the Buffaloes did not play well with the lead. Building off their quick-strike to end the first half, the Wildcats went out and scored 1:49 into the second half to go up 21-20.
Colorado, meanwhile, struggled to gain any traction on their first two second half drives, but Montez found Tony Brown yet again for a 49-yard gain on their third drive.
After that, it was all Touchdown Tony Brown. Given the monicker by his teammates and fans alike, Brown scored a touchdown on the ground to give the Buffaloes a 27-21 lead. The touchdown continued his streak of important plays for this season, and he came through in the clutch yet again.
The defense could not hold onto the lead yet again, however, as it only took the Wildcats 1:29 to score again to take a 28-27 lead.
With all the back-and-forth throughout the game, only one question remained: could the Buffaloes win yet another close four-quarter game?
The Buffaloes drove into the red zone early in the fourth quarter and had a first-and-goal from the Arizona two-yard line. However, they would lose one yard in total on the next three plays and were forced to settle for a field goal. They took a 30-28 lead.
Arizona then scored a touchdown on the next possession and burned clock, doing so for the first time all game. Their drive took a bit over seven minutes, but it left the Buffaloes with about six minutes.
The Buffaloes were able to have somewhat long drives, in terms of time, to tie games with Nebraska and Air Force earlier in the season, and would have a chance to do the same against Arizona. However, once they got into Arizona territory the Wildcats defense stood pat and did not let the Buffaloes move any further into scoring range.
On the deciding fourth down with 2:26 remaining, Montez overthrew wide receiver Dimitri Stanley, giving the Wildcats the ball back with a five point lead.
The Buffaloes had all three timeouts and would utilize them all, but the Wildcats were able to convert two first downs and end the game. Their’ chance at claiming first place in the Pac-12 south was gone.
Looking Ahead During 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 7
The 2019 Colorado Buffaloes have been inconsistent and unpredictable. All three phases will play well at certain points of the game, but they had trouble feeding off each other against Arizona.
Colorado also struggled with discipline, as they were penalized eight times for 85 yards, compared to the lone 5-yard penalty for Arizona.
If they have any hope of pulling off a major road upset in Eugene in College Football Week 7, Colorado will have to put together good offensive and defensive series that compliment each other.
Oregon has a coveted NFL quarterback in Justin Herbert and arguably the best defense in the Pac-12, and the Buffaloes will not be picked by many to win the game. However, the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes have played up to their competition in all of their games, and it might not be a total shock if they are able to keep the game close. They will have their shot this Friday, but they will have to bring an improved, cohesive unit to Eugene to compete with the cream of the crop in the Pac-12.