The nightmare may have just begun.
After the Colorado Buffaloes collapsed and lost at home to the one-win Oregon State Beavers, they will face a familiar foe on the road in Arizona, and that’s the terrifying Khalil Tate. If you haven’t yet put on a horror movie on this spooky holiday, here is the most gruesome sight I have ever witnessed:
In that infamous game — Tate’s first extended time, no less — he had a barely believable 327 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. He set the FBS record for most rushing yards for a QB in one game, and he did it on only 14 carries (!). When he wasn’t averaging 23.4 yards per rush, he also contributed 154 passing yards and a score on an almost perfect 12-13 passing. Colorado almost won the game because of Phillip Lindsay’s heroics, but Tate’s lethality meant a 45-42 loss and eventually a 5-7 finish to the season.
Tate spent the rest of 2017 murdering defenses as he racked up 1,325 rushing yards and 12 rushing TDs to along with his 1,550 passing yards and 14 passing TDs. Only in road losses to Oregon and Arizona State was he ever contained. Colorado got the worst of this nightmare — perhaps because they hadn’t prepared to stop him — but it was the rest of the conference that feared him as well.
Entering 2018, Tate was one of the premier Heisman contenders. But he hasn’t been same. After Rich Rodriguez was fired amid sexual harassment allegations, Arizona tapped Kevin Sumlin as the next head coach. Sumlin had previously coached at Texas A&M, where he coached up Johnny Manziel, but pushed out other blue chip QB prospects Kenny “The Thrill” Hill and Kyler “Better than Baker” Murray.
Tate was best served as a run-heavy QB playing in Rodriguez’s spread option offense — just as Denard Robinson excelled with him at Michigan — but when the Wildcats were rumored to target Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo, Tate infamously tweeted (since deleted), “I didn’t come to Arizona to run the triple-option.” With that, it was clear that he wanted to prove himself as a quarterback, not just as a runner.
While former Sumlin recruit Murray has thrived as a dual-threat atomic weapon in Oklahoma’s nuclear offense, Tate has stagnated as his team has virtually abandoned the QB run. In seven full games, he has 136 rushing yards total, averaging just 2.7 yards on his 51 carries. He hasn’t made up for that as a passer as he’s completed 54% of his passes for only 1,604 yards for a meager 7.6 yards per attempt. The only thing he’s really excelled at is 14 TDs to just 5 interceptions, and even then 5 of those scores (plus 349 yards) came against Southern Utah, who are last place in the FCS’s Big Sky Conference.
But even as Tate has struggled, he’s still lethal, especially if Arizona realizes that his running and passing ability can compliment each other, thus enhancing both skills. There’s a chance that if the Buffs were just torn to shreds by Jake Luton, even a stand-still Tate would pick apart CU’s porous secondary. And that’s only if he doesn’t threaten via the ground.
Sumlin and Tate both have to know how much success he had against CU last year, and having seen Nebraska’s Blake Martinez tear up that defense, they absolutely should go run-heavy. Tate has been a bit hobbled by an ankle injury this season, but even if he’s running at 80%, Colorado doesn’t have a history of using QB spies despite having Davion Taylor and Evan Worthington perfectly suited for that role. Even if they spy, Tate draws attention towards the line or takes a defender out of zone, the Buffs’ already strained pass defense will make him more dangerous as a thrower.
Given Arizona’s defense has dominated at home — they just shut down Justin Herbert and the Oregon offense — Colorado will have to do everything they can to slow down Tate, especially if he finds his legs. But if the Buffaloes fall asleep on Friday night, there’s no telling if they will ever wake up from this nightmare.