ARIZONA FOOTBALL

Wildcats take on a Colorado team in midst of three-game losing streak

Nov 1, 2018, 5:48 PM | Updated: 11:47 pm

(AP Photos)...

(AP Photos)

(AP Photos)

Through the first five games, the Colorado Buffaloes and Arizona Wildcats seemed to be on the opposite sides of the spectrum.

Colorado compiled a 5-0 record, scoring at least 28 points a game, while Arizona went 2-3 and looked lost at times.

But now with the two teams set to meet Friday, it’s the Wildcats who are coming into the game with a full head of steam.

Last week against Oregon, Arizona (4-5, 3-3) found the end zone early and often, taking down the No. 19 ranked Ducks 44-15.

The Buffaloes (5-3, 2-3) suffered a tough blow against the Beavers, losing 41-34 in overtime. They led 31-3 heading into halftime before giving up 38 points in the second half.

It was Colorado’s third straight loss.

Needing six wins to be bowl eligible, the Wildcats need to win two of their last three games. A win over the Buffaloes would give Arizona some breathing room as they would need to get just one more victory over No. 8 Washington State or in-state rival Arizona State.

Essential Info

What: Colorado @ Arizona

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV: FS1

Key Storylines

Can Khalil Tate replicate his 2017 rushing attack against Colorado?

Four touchdowns and 327 yards.

That’s what Tate gashed Colorado for last season when the teams squared off, breaking a 2013 single-game rushing record for quarterbacks. It was also the second-most yards in Arizona history, with former running back Ka’Deem Carey leading the way with 366 yards against — you guessed it — Colorado in 2012.

Averaging 23.5 yards a carry, Tate controlled the game as soon as he stepped onto the field.

It’s been a different 2018 for the QB, however, as he hasn’t been that duel-threat he was just a season ago.

Colorado has been stingy to opposing quarterbacks on the ground this season.

Only Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez has caused issues for the defense, rushing for 117 yards and two touchdowns earlier in the year. Looking at the rest of the schedule, the next highest yardage is just 25 yards, with three quarterbacks rushing for negative yards.

Will the Arizona defense have back-to-back big games?

The Ducks posed a tough task for the Wildcats defense last Saturday. But it was the defense, not the Ducks offense, that impressed.

Not only did they limit quarterback Justin Herbert to just 186 yards and two scores, the defense also shut down the run game. Oregon had just 84 yards, averaging 3.7 a carry. The Ducks average 262 yards through the air and almost 175 yards on the ground per game.

All told, Arizona forced three turnovers — one interception, two fumbles.

They will need that same effort, if not more, against a tough Colorado offense that boasts a balanced attack.

Quarterback Steven Montez has shown the ability to take over games. In three of the team’s first five games, Montez threw for more than 300 yards and at least two scores.

Running back Travon McMillian brings a solid running attack to the field as well. Through eight games, the running back has had five games of more than 100 yards.

Will Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr. play?

One of the biggest question marks for Friday’s tilt is the availability of Colorado’s top wideout Shenault Jr.

After tearing up teams through the first six games, the sophomore has missed the last two outings with a toe injury.

If Shenault is out of the lineup, it would be a huge blow for a Buffaloes team reeling after three straight losses to Pac-12 opponents.

Key Wildcats

RB J.J. Taylor

After breaking the triple-digit mark in just one of his first seven games of the season — he did rush for 284 yards and two touchdowns in that game, however — Wildcats’ Taylor has put together back-to-back games of over 100 yards on the ground.

With Tate not carrying the ball as much this season, Taylor has been called upon more and more as the season progresses.

He’s already surpassed his 2017 totals, rushing for 1,029 yards and six touchdowns on 167 attempts in 2018.

He may find some space against Colorado too as the defense has allowed 142 yards a game to opposing running backs.

QB Khalil Tate

Through nine games, Tate has carried the rock just 53 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns, with his best outing being against California. He rushed for 40 yards on eight carries.

Although he has been dealing with an ankle issue, his totals are well off his 2017 numbers where he rushed for 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns on 153 carries.

But with success against Colorado last season, Tate could be in store for another healthy rushing total.

While he hasn’t used his legs as much, his arm has shown flashes of carrying the load. He’s already tied his touchdown total from last season (14) and has more passing yards with three games still to play.

Coming off his three-touchdown performance against Oregon, Tate’s confidence through the air could be at an all-time high.

Key Buffaloes

WR Laviska Shenault Jr.

When he’s on the field, Shenault is a game changer.

Even with missing time, the wideout still has solid numbers.

In six games, he has caught 60 balls for 780 yards and six scores.

He’s also got it done in the run game, rushing for 87 yards and five touchdowns on 15 carries.

If healthy, Arizona’s defense could be in store for a long day.

RB Travon McMillian

Colorado’s bread and butter is a balanced attack.

McMillian makes that gameplan a whole lot easier.

The Virginia Tech grad transfer has rushed for 778 yards and five touchdowns through eight games.

Consistency has been an issue for McMillian, however. In the three games he didn’t rush for more than 100 yards, the running back averaged less than 3.1 yards a carry and failed to reach the 90-yard mark.

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