TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — UCLA has struggled defensively this season, ranking near the bottom of the FBS in scoring and rushing defense.
Next up for the Bruins are Arizona and Khalil Tate, who had the most prolific day running the ball by a quarterback in FBS history.
Even with a week off to prepare, this could be a difficult matchup.
“It’s hard to play these running quarterbacks because it tempers your ability to just turn it loose and go because if you create escape lanes, you’re really going to pay for it,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “We’ve just got to make sure we’re very disciplined in the way we rush and that we keep our eyes on him and that we’re able to get off blocks.”
Arizona (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) appeared to be in trouble last week against Colorado when quarterback Brandon Dawkins went down with an injury in the first quarter.
Instead, Tate took over and took off.
The sophomore darted and dashed his way through the Buffaloes, setting an FBS record with 327 yards rushing. Tate scored on runs of 75, 58, 47 and 28 yards to average 23.4 yards per carry. He added 154 yards and another score on 12-of-13 passing to join Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch (2013) as the only FBS quarterbacks to run for 300 yards and pass for 150 in a game.
Arizona ran for 413 in the 45-42 win in Boulder and ranks fourth nationally with 319.4 yards per game.
UCLA (3-2, 1-1) is second to last nationally against the run, allowing 284.2 yards per game, and is 119th of 129 FBS teams in scoring defense at 39.2 points per game.
“We have to play hard but play with patience, play with speed but play with patience and that’s sometimes a difficult combination,” Mora said. “But we’ve been working really hard on it, and our guys have a great understanding of what we’re up against.”
A few more things to look for when UCLA plays at Arizona on Saturday night:
STOPPING ROSEN: UCLA isn’t the only team that will have its hands full in the desert. Despite being better defensively this season, Arizona has had its share of struggles on defense, particularly in last week’s shootout with Colorado. The Wildcats face a tough challenge against UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who has already thrown for a nation-leading 2,135 yards and 17 touchdowns. UCLA leads the nation with 435.8 yards passing per game behind Rosen. “He can throw, and is intelligent and athletic,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He will make subtle movements in the pocket to buy some time and make that good pass down the field. They are never out of a game and it is no question he will be a top NFL draft pick.”
TOUGH BREAK: Rosen will be without one of his top targets. Tight end Caleb Wilson suffered a foot injury against Colorado two weeks ago and underwent season-ending surgery. He was UCLA’s second-leading receiver with 38 catches for 490 yards and a touchdown.
BRUINS IN CONTROL: UCLA has dominated the series with Arizona in recent years, winning five straight, including the last two in Tucson. The Bruins won 45-24 at home last season in a game that saw the Wildcats lose quarterback Brandon Dawkins and Nick Wilson to injuries.
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