ARIZONA FOOTBALL

Sumlin, Arizona Wildcats continue their battle for bowl eligibility

Nov 14, 2018, 12:46 PM | Updated: 1:16 pm

FILE - In this July 25, 2018, file photo, Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin speaks at the Pac-12 Conf...

FILE - In this July 25, 2018, file photo, Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin speaks at the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football Media Day in Los Angeles. Arizona was supposed to make a seamless transition to new coach Kevin Sumlin, possibly contend for a Pac-12 South title. Through two games, the Wildcats have done little but struggle under their first-year coach. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Now in third place and tied with their rival Arizona State with a 4-3 record in conference play, the Arizona Wildcats remain focused on the task at hand: taking care of No. 8 Washington State in Pullman.

In his first full season in Tucson, head coach Kevin Sumlin refuses to get caught up in the narratives surrounding his program. After a rocky start to the season, Arizona has found a rhythm by claiming victories in back-to-back weeks against Colorado and Oregon.

With the sudden resurgence, Arizona has a chance to snatch away the division from No. 19 Utah by winning the last two games of the season. To keep their bowl eligibility alive and put the nation on notice, the Wildcats need to steal a victory on Saturday night.

“Any time you make yourself eligible for postseason play, that’s a step in year one,” Sumlin said during his weekly Pac-12 teleconference. “Five weeks ago, people weren’t talking about us at all or even how poor we were playing. These guys do better on focusing on the opponent at hand and playing for four quarters and executing for four quarters.”

Sumlin and the Wildcats are tasked with contesting a scorching hot Washington State team that’s won six games in a row. Senior quarterback Gardner Minshew is building a case for this year’s Heisman trophy with 3,852 yards and 29 touchdowns through 10 games.

To sneak into bowl eligibility and make a statement about the trajectory of the program, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate will be forced to rise to the occasion and counter Minshew by doubling down on his performance against Colorado.

Tate connected on 17-of-22 passes for a season-high 350 passing yards with a touchdown to interception rate of 5-to-1. In what was his best all-around game of the season, Tate posted a season-best raw quarterback rating of 97.2.

“Nothing really happens without going to Pullman and playing very very well this week,” Sumlin said.

This is a tall task, considering the Cougars are 5-0 at the Martin Stadium this season.

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