In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate celebrates after rushing for a touchdown against Colorado in the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Boulder, Colo. Arizona won 45-42. Tate turned in the top rushing performance of the season in the Football Bowl Subdivision, piling up 327 yards on just 14 carries against Colorado. (David Zalubowski/AP, File)
Originally published Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 10:40p.m.
LOS ANGELES — UCLA is taking Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez at his word.
The Wildcats’ depth chart lists Khalil Tate or Brandon Dawkins as the starting quarterback, so the Bruins are preparing for both for their game on Saturday. That designation comes after Tate ran for 327 yards in a win at Colorado, the most yards rushing ever by an FBS quarterback.
“I think their offense is their offense. That’s why they have those type of quarterbacks and that’s what they want to do,” UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said Tuesday. “They are going to do the things that they like to do regardless of who’s playing quarterback.”
Considering the trouble UCLA has had this season defending mobile quarterbacks that is a pretty reasonably position to take. Texas A&M freshman Kellen Mond rushed for 87 yards, not counting yardage lost on four sacks. Hawaii backup Cole McDonald had a 58-yard run on a keeper. And Colorado’s Steven Montez rushed for 108 yards on 15 carries in UCLA’s last game before a bye week, giving the defensive line fits as they failed to keep him in the pocket.
Knowing what Tate just did and what Dawkins can do, as the redshirt junior led Arizona in rushing last season with 944 yards and 10 touchdowns, makes containment the highest priority this week.
“You have to be very careful, very disciplined in your pass rush,” Bradley said. “Sometimes good pass rush isn’t necessarily sacks. It’s just making sure you are containing him and trying to keep him on your inside shoulder.”
UCLA does have some familiarity with Tate, who made his collegiate debut in the Bruins’ 45-24 win last season. Tate was 5 of 9 passing for 72 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 79 yards on 15 carries.
While he showed off his strong arm at the Rose Bowl, Tate’s record-setting performance against the Buffaloes was defined by explosive plays on the ground. Tate had touchdowns runs of 58, 28, 47 and 75 yards.
Stopping such explosive runs has been an issue for UCLA, with poor tackling and bad angles at fault. Bradley spent the open week examining whether the calls he has been making might be too complex for a defense that has been frequently shuffling its lineup because of injuries and ejections for targeting.
“Are we asking them to do too much? Where is the cutoff point, so we’ve really tried to discipline ourself into coming up with exactly what we need and not anything more,” Bradley said.
Bradley will be leaning on linebacker Kenny Young to relay that message and keep Tate or Dawkins from breaking free. Young had been lining up in different positions this season before moving into his usual middle linebacker role, and Bradley likes how the senior has settled back in.
“I think Kenny feels natural back there. That’s kind of his home for him,” Bradley said. “Moving him around I think has helped him, too, because he understands the whole package now and how we’re doing things. It gives us more versatility as we move forward.”
Consistency has been the mantra for UCLA against Arizona under head coach Jim Mora, having won all five meetings while allowing 19.6 points per game. For that streak to continue, UCLA has to keep Tate or Dawkins from making the highlight-reel plays.
“They are fun to watch on film. They’re not so fun to play against in person,” Bradley said. “They do a great job. They are both big, they are strong. I think they are elusive. They are not just one-dimensional type guys. They can throw it, too, so we definitely have our work cut out for us.”
Running back Nate Starks is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery.