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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Commentary: Khalil Tate is Arizona’s best player … ever

Carmen Valencia

Arizona’s Khalil Tate (14) scores a touchdown against USC. Arizona lost 49-35.

LOS ANGELES — The Heisman Trophy is meant for the very best player in college football in a given year. On Saturday against USC, Arizona’s quarterback Khalil Tate showed why at the very least he deserves an invite to New York City, and the Downtown Athletic Club. He also showed why he may be the very best player to ever put on an Arizona football uniform.

It wasn’t an ideal start for the sophomore, in fact, it was pretty awful, leading the Wildcats to just 91 yards of total offense in the first half against the Trojans and a measly six points. But midway through the second half, Tate became who he has been the past month — superman.

An emotional Khalil Tate walks off the field after the UA-USC game. USC beat Arizona 49-35.
An emotional Khalil Tate walks off the field after the UA-USC game. USC beat Arizona 49-35.

It all started with a 32-yard run up the middle of the USC defense to the end zone and didn’t stop until the game’s waining moments. Tate, who amassed just 42 yards rushing and 37 yards passing in the first 30 minutes, erupted in a 15-minute span from the third to the fourth quarter. In total, he ran for 161 yards and threw for 146, including a combined three touchdowns.

To make matters even better for Tate, he became the first quarterback in Pac-12 history to run for 1,000 yards and setting the conferences single season rushing record according to Arizona Athletics. By the way, it has only been five games.

“Khalil Tate, as you know, he changed our program,” cornerback Dane Cruikshank said. “He’s a great player and we’re thankful for him.”

Tate was able to bring the ‘Cats back from the brink and with each score, each flexing of his muscles in triumph, each single legged stomp of victory, he subsequently breathed life back into a Wildcats team that looked dead on arrival coming back from halftime.

Try as they may, not even the talented four and five-star riddled defense of USC could contain Tate, who rushed for over 150 yards for the fifth consecutive game. What makes his performance more impressive is his demeanor. Smooth and unfazed, even when he makes a bad play. Tate doesn’t lack confidence and it rubs off on his teammates, he is by every measure becoming the most important player UA football has ever had.

Arizona's Khalil Tate (14) jukes to avoid USC defenders.
Arizona’s Khalil Tate (14) jukes to avoid USC defenders.

“Khalil will never give up and he is such a momentum shifter,” linebacker Tony Fields said. “…Even after a turnover or anything, a big play, anything Khalil comes up, shakes the whole defense hand and says “Let’s go, we got it, let’s go.” He comes up to me and says “Let’s go” ahead of the team, Khalil is very inspirational as a quarterback.”

Tate doesn’t get the attention nationally like some of his midwest to east coast counterparts, but his reputation isn’t lost amongst those whose teams have to face him. Just strolling through USC’s tailgate, fan after fan spoke highly of the quarterback. For a program steeped in a rich history of National Championships and Heisman winners like USC, for fans to acknowledge Tate’s greatness is a significant step into proving why he requires an invite to New York.

He is no fluke, he is quite the opposite. Tate is a player who has an entire football team on his back and is trying to make football relevant again for not only the university, but also the entire city of Tucson. Tate’s true measure of greatness isn’t in the snaps he has taken, rather the despair any Arizona fan should feel knowing that each snap brings him closer to his last.

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