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Colorado stranded in the desert against Arizona, lose 42-34

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Buffs drop a fourth straight Pac-12 game after blowing a double-digit lead early.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre couldn’t forget Khalil Tate’s FBS record-setting 327 rushing yard performance last year against the Buffaloes. And he’ll likely suffer more nightmares of No. 14 in red and navy blue after this one.

A year later and Tate didn’t need his legs to beat CU, throwing for a career-high 350 yards and five touchdowns to help Arizona (5-5, 4-3 Pac-12) roll to a 42-34 win over the Buffs on Friday night.

Tate was questionable with an ankle injury coming into the game after last week’s blowout win over No. 19 Oregon. He seemed to struggle early against Colorado’s defense before putting together eight consecutive scoring drives. Tate completed 17-of-22 passes with three of his five touchdown strikes over 30 yards.

J.J. Taylor kept Arizona’s offense moving down the field, finishing with 40 carries for 192 yards against the Buffs. The third straight game the sophomore rusher has eclipsed 150 yards rushing and fourth overall on the season.

In what started as Colorado (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) jumping out to an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter, turned into a 26-point surge by the Wildcats before halftime, including 17 unanswered points all in the second quarter. Steven Montez threaded a 57-yard pass to Travon McMillian to regain a 24-23 lead with :33 seconds before halftime. Instead of CU taking the one-point advantage into the locker room, Arizona wasted no time on the ensuing possession with Lucas Havrisik nailing a 55-yard field goal with time expiring to put the Wildcats up 26-24.

Arizona is one of the best second half teams in college football, and proved it once again. With Tate and Co. accounting for 213 of their 566 total yards in the first 17 minutes of the final half on three drives that resulted in 16 points.

Colorado’s offensive struggles continued against the Wildcats defense. The Buffs started the game without standout wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., and quickly lost K.D. Nixon and Jay MacIntyre to injury. Montez went 27-of-42 for 343 yards for three touchdowns and an interception late in the game. The staggering number for the Buffs was the 10 tackles for a loss, along with five sacks allowed by the offensive line on Montez.

Arizona has won six of the last seven meeting against Colorado going back to 2012.

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The Buffs need a turnaround after dropping a fourth straight conference game. They’ll return home to face the most difficult part of their schedule with back-to-back games against No. 10 Washington State and No. 16 Utah. One win out of the remaining three is all CU needs to become bowl eligible for the second time in the past three years.

Arizona’s in the same boat needing a sixth win to reach a bowl for a second consecutive season. Not a bad accomplishment in coach Kevin Sumlin’s first season in Tucson. The Wildcats play at Washington State in two weeks following a bye.