Oregon State takes on Arizona tonight in Tucson. Its a rare (for the Beavers) actually nationally televised game on ESPN2, but the buzz won’t be about the visitors; the relatively large scale attention is entirely about the ‘Cats phenomenal phenome quarterback Khalil Tate.
Tate only took over as Arizona’s QB after Brandon Dawkins was rode into the bench in the ‘Cats first drive of their 5th game of the year at Colorado, and he’s already become a candidate to at least get an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation.
Tate became the first person ever to be named the PCC/Pac-8/10/12 conference offensive Player of the Week 4 weeks in a row, in a magical October winning streak.
That came to a bit of an abrupt end last Saturday in the LA Coliseum, but Tate rallied the ‘Cats from 22 down to tie the game, only to have USC pull away for a 49-35 win. The Trojans do tend to do things like that though.
Nevertheless, in 4 starts, and effectively 5 games, Tate has run for enough yardage to be the 3rd leading rusher in the country, and 2nd in the conference, and has 10 runs of 40 yards or more, some many more.
This makes the ‘Cats the number 1 rushing and overall offense in the Pac-12. No small accomplishment in a conference that might have 4 NFL quality quarterbacks, and, as Oregon State fans have seen first hand, a relentless array of exceptional to elite running backs.
Tate’s recent performances are a far cry from what we last saw of him in person, in a mop up role in Oregon State’s 42-17 rout of the ‘Cats on a cold, dark night last November in Reser.
Many Beaver fans might not have even noticed, when Tate took over for Dawkins and Anu Soloman for the final drive, which came just after Oregon State had scored to seal the win, and they were busy celebrating the rare win.
But Tate did manage to flip the field, driving Arizona from their own 28 to the Oregon State 29 in a minute and 22 seconds, though he only ran 3 times, for just 12 yards.
Tonight’s outcome is more likely to resemble Oregon State’s last visit to Tucson, a 44-7 blowout loss 2 seasons ago. Being without their quarterback, playing essentially the 3rd string secondary, playing without Bright U for the first half (due to a targeting call in the second half at California last Saturday), and with a long list of other players that are banged up in some manner or other, or out, its going to be hard to slow down Arizona, or to keep up with them.
Plus its on the road, where Oregon State has lost 17 in a row, all but one by double digit margins. And its in Arizona, where the Beavers haven’t fared very well recently, losing 3 of their last 4 though they have done better in Tucson than Tempe.
All reasons why the Beavers being 22.5 point road underdogs doesn’t seem out of line at all.
Interim Coach Cory Hall found out first hand just how different it is on the road last weekend, when, after 3 and 1 point losses at home, California pulled away for a 2 touchdown win. If Hall can figure out how to get the Beavers to hang within 3 scores against the ‘Cats, that will be a performance that exceeds expectations.
Recommitting to the rushing game would be a good start. It’s what produced the closeness in the losses to Colorado and Stanford, and it was Ryan Nall, above, who carried the freight to the tune of 124 yards in last year’s win over Arizona.
He won’t have the air support he got from Marcus McMaryion, now Fresno State’s starting quarterback, who threw for 5 touchdowns in his best performance as a Beaver.
But Oregon State has to stick with the ground game better than they did in Berkeley, where the group effort only produced 104 rushing yards, if they are to keep Arizona under any measure of control. After all, the one place Tate can’t hurt them from is the sideline.
A representative, and competent, effort will go a long ways in Hall’s audition to remain on the staff of whomever the next head coach is. It would also help with the mindset of a young Oregon State team that bears a strong resemblance to what Arizona looked like just a year ago, when it was the Wildcats that were the worst team in the conference, and loaded with youngsters themselves.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)