If Rich Rodriguez can lead the Arizona Wildcats to finish a great turnaround season and save his job, the first person he should call to thank is Colorado linebacker Drew Lewis.
Before the season many people questioned if Rodriguez would be facing the music at the end of the season, if not earlier, due to the Wildcats lackluster 3-9 record last season. He was on the hot seat with a rocky start to 2017, picking up losses against Houston and Utah. Rodriguez was feeling the pressure from the faithful in Tucson and there didn’t look to be a lot of hope that a turnaround was coming. That was until Brandon Dawkins took a late hit out of bounds by Lewis, drawing a penalty and forcing the Arizona quarterback to be sidelined with an injury.
Khalil Tate entered the game for Dawkins on the opening drive against Colorado and the rest is history. From that point on the backup picked the Buffaloes apart, breaking the FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 327. Rodriguez gave Dawkins the starting job by default over Tate, who was recovering from a shoulder injury.
Since seeing significant playing time this season, Tate has rushed for 557 yards and 8 total touchdowns in the past two games, earning back-to-back Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors. He’s also the first FBS quarterback since 1997 to post consecutive 200-yard contests.
Arizona has a 4-2 record overall, second behind No. 11 USC in the Pac-12 South standings. Who knew how special Tate was going to be, and if it wasn’t for the injury to Dawkins, he might be still on the bench studying the playbook.