Since Arizona inserted Khalil Tate into the starting lineup at quarterback, opposing defenses haven’t been able to contain him.
His numbers, especially on the ground, have been absurd. In his six starts (five Arizona wins), Tate has 1,207 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. That’s an average of 201.2 rushing yards per game.
So can Oregon do to buck the trend when the 7-3 Wildcats come to Autzen Stadium on Saturday night?
“Pray,” Ducks coach Willie Taggart said with a laugh.
All jokes aside, Taggart said defending a dynamic running quarterback like Tate comes down to discipline and keeping things simple.
“No one’s stopped him yet this year. He’s a heck of a talent. Big time football player and he’s really good with the ball in his hand,” Taggart said. “Defensively, we’ve got to be disciplined and make sure we do a good job of wrapping up and getting everybody to the ball. We’ve got to run to the ball.
“Probably the most important thing is we’ve got to get lined up. You see in a lot of the big plays they make, defenses aren’t aligned right because of the tempo and they’re not getting set up. I don’t think you can complicate things trying to defend. I think that will get you, too, when you ask your guy to do too much and then they don’t do anything right.”
Taggart said cleaning up the team’s tackling was a big point of emphasis during the bye week. Taggart also hopes the Ducks will see the return of quarterback Justin Herbert to the lineup against Arizona. Herbert broke his collarbone in the win over Cal on Sept. 30 and hasn’t played since.
Oregon was 4-1 after the Cal game but has lost four of its last five without Herbert in the lineup. At 5-5, the Ducks need a win over Arizona or rival Oregon State to reach a bowl game in Taggart’s first season, a nice step in the right direction after going 4-8 last year.
Taggart believes things can get back on track against the Wildcats.
“If we’re on the top of our game and play with a lot of emotion and passion and discipline, then we’ll have a chance.”
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