Buffs know all too well Tate’s speed and precision
Their introduction to his speed came two years ago when they knocked Brandon Dawkins from the game only to see Tate come in and run roughshod over them for 327 yards, an FBS record for a quarterback, in leading the Wildcats to a 45-42 win at Folsom Field.
They learned all about his pinpoint passing last year when Tate threw for 350 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-34 win in Tucson.
“He can do it all,” said Colorado first-year coach Mel Tucker, whose Buffs face the Wildcats again Saturday. “You don’t see guys like that every week. He’s definitely one of those guys you call a game wrecker.”
Tate is the first Wildcats QB to reach the 2,000-yard career mark on the ground and is the only Pac-12 QB other than Oregon’s Marcus Mariota with 5,000 yards passing and 2,000 rushing yards.
Tate isn’t the only quarterback the Buffs have to prepare for this weekend, though.
Arizona showed it can win without Tate and running back J.J. Taylor last week when they were sidelined by leg injuries and freshman Grant Gunnell threw for 352 yards and a touchdown on 29-of-44 passing in the Wildcats’ 20-17 win over UCLA.
“It requires extra work because we’re not sure of which guy we’re going to see,” Tucker said.
Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin won’t announce his starting QB until Saturday but professed the insignificance of the uncertainty for Colorado.
“The guys that are playing are so different on paper, as far as the style of quarterbacks,” Sumlin said. “You’re preparing for a couple different guys. One of them is going to run out there on Saturday. Now there’s video on both of them, so I don’t know if there’s much of an advantage either way.”
“They definitely have two different styles,” Buffs pass rusher Carson Wells said. “But we just need to know our assignments for each play and make sure to lock in and learn the little details.”
Other things to watch when the Buffs (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) host the Wildcats (3-1, 1-0):
The Wildcats have won three straight games since opening with a loss at Hawaii, and they’ve outscored their last two opponents 22-0 in the fourth quarter. They’ve won two straight games after entering the fourth quarter trailing. Before that, they had lost 24 consecutive such games.
Tucker is leaning on the lessons the Buffs learned in their overtime loss to Air Force to prepare for the Wildcats’ offense.
“In terms of option responsibility, it’s very similar. We have to play assignment football, make sure that guys do their jobs, be disciplined,” Tucker said. “They give you a lot of different looks.”
The Buffs, coming off a bye after beating Arizona State 34-31, have their own seasoned quarterback in Steven Montez , who threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns against the Sun Devils despite losing star receiver Laviska Shenault to an unspecified injury in the first quarter.
The Sun Devils became the first nationally ranked team Colorado beat on the road in 17 seasons. That came after the Buffs beat a ranked Nebraska team at home.
Shenault is questionable for the game, but Sumlin, who regards Shenault as the league’s best player, noted that Buffs senior receiver Tony Brown “has been exceptional.”
Brown, a senior, leads the Buffs with 19 catches for 301 yards and four touchdowns, including three against the Sun Devils. Last year he had 32 catches for 333 yards and a TD.
“Nobody was really talking about him coming into the season,” Montez said. “There wasn’t really too much chatter about Tony Brown. But now, there should be, and rightfully so.”