Khalil Tate, QB
Game Stats: 18-30, 294 YDS, 4 TD, 1 INT, 8 CAR, 25 YDS.
While Arizona was promptly blown out by Washington State, it wasn’t due to quarterback play. Khalil Tate turned in a second strong performance, limiting turnovers, and adding an impressive 33 yard run after Tate’s legs rushing abilities had been nowhere to be seen all season long. Over the past three games, the quarterback has been quietly heating up having tossed an impressive 12 touchdowns to go against only three interceptions.
The completion percentage is still down from a career-high 62% in a breakout season a year ago, but overall, Tate’s passing stats this year match up nicely with last season’s numbers. Tate has a 152.0 passer rating after posting a 152.4 rating a year ago, and after posting a 1.5 touchdown to interception ratio a year ago, doubled his productivity with a 3.2 touchdown to interception ratio this season. The continued issue is a nearly completely dormant rushing attack.
After averaging a monstrous 9.2 yards a carry and finishing with 12 touchdowns over the course of a 1,000-yard season a year ago, Tate has averaged a meager 2.7 yards per carry with only two scores. Nagging ankle injuries have bothered Tate all season long, so it bodes well for the future to see consistent passing stats season to season even as the rushing ability has been hampered.
Game Day Grade: A-
Current Draft Stock: Undrafted Free Agent
Next Week: For Tate and first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin, a disappointing season still ends with a chance to wrap up bowl eligibility with a big win over in-state rival Arizona State. If Arizona can win, both teams get to make it to bowl season, but rivals never play nice do they?
One thing to look out for: it is a small sample size, but Tate has averaged 322 yards and 4.5 touchdowns over two November games – coming into a rivalry game at home and hot could lead to a big day on Saturday.
Shawn Poindexter, WR
Game Stats: 2 REC, 38 YDS, 2 TDS
This might sound familiar, but Shawn Poindexter only caught two passes, but turned two catches into two scores, giving the NFL-ready receiver four straight weeks of multi-score games. While the Wildcat offense has had offensive ebbs and flows, Poindexter has continued to find ways to be productive.
At the beginning of the season, it was by stretching the field and giving Arizona a consistent deep target before evolving into Khalil Tate’s new favorite red zone target over the past month.
It is hard for Poindexter to raise his draft stock as the Wildcats fell behind 55-14 at halftime and never threatened, but in a long season, it is a huge plus to see Poindexter maintain productivity just about every week.
Game Day Grade: B
Current Draft Stock: 2nd Round
Next Week: All bets are off on rivalry weekend, but season stats have the Sun Devils giving up a hair over 234 passing yards per game. This isn’t great, but what Arizona State fan wouldn’t be happy limiting a red-hot Khalil Tate to 230ish yards?
As far as red zone defense is concerned, the Sun Devils are in the same spot, around 75th in the country, so nothing too special. Poindexter has been a touchdown magnet over the last month, so he could easily have an impressive game and finish the regular season on a high note.
Layth Friekh, OL
It was a game Layth Friekh and the rest of offensive line would like to forget. Arizona running backs averaged a middling 3.85 yards per carry, and the run game did not produce a touchdown after the Wildcats came into the game averaging over 200 yards per game. Disappointing to say the least.
The pass blocking was worse. Cougar defenders lived in the backfield, racking up four sacks and eight tackles for a loss. Last week Friekh was in danger of dropping to the seventh round, so this is certainly not the performance anyone wanted to see. Luckily, there is one game left in the season to turn things around.
Game Day Grade: D
Current Draft Stock: 7th Round
Next Week: After taking a two-game suspension from the NCAA as a price to pay for the fifth year of eligibility, you know the annual game against Arizona State carries some serious weight. I expect the senior to play hard and play well in his last Territorial Cup.
The pass protection should improve, as the Sun Devils only average 2.45 sacks per game, and the run blocking should improve as well with Arizona State allowing 145ish yards per game on the ground.
Kylan Wilborn, DL
Game Stats: 2 tackle, 1 solo
It was good to see Wilborn back on the field on Saturday. Any injuries Wilborn was dealing with were no-doubt helped by a well-timed bye week, but a pair of stops with only one being a solo tackle simply will not get the job done.
Even a few seasons ago, Wilborn’s 6’2”248-pound frame would have been ideal defensive end size, but now it is on the smaller size, meaning that Wilborn getting to the quarterback is that much more important. After bursting on to the PAC 12 scene with 7.5 sacks a season ago, Wilborn only has two sacks in 2018, one of which came against a Southern Utah team that only has one win.
At this point in the season, Wilbron has to be looking forward to a rivalry game with a chance to go to a bowl game and rebounding with a strong junior season.
Game Day Grade: C-
Current Draft Stock: Undrafted Free Agent
Next Week: Wilborn and the Cats travel back to Tucson where they finish the regular season with a much easier opponent – Arizona State is a middle of the pack team, just like Arizona. One thing Arizona State does well, however, is protecting the quarterback. The Sun Devils have given up just 15 sacks all season are good at keeping Manny Wilkins upright, so it could be a long day for Wilborn if he does not find a rhythm early.
Dereck Boles, DL
Game Stats: 3 tackle, 2 solo, 0.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks
It was not a good defensive performance for the Wildcats. With a career-high seven touchdowns, Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew was as advertised. This was more or less expected, but the Cougars very pedestrian rushing attack rolled up 123 rushing yards, easily a season high.
This was one area where Arizona was expected to have the advantage, but the Wildcat front four were pushed around throughout the game. While the defense got ripped apart and gave up 69 points, Dereck Boles can sleep easier than most after now having had multiple tackles in all but one game this season. Make no mistake, even after splitting a sack and tackle for loss, Boles’ draft stock will not improve – not on an Arizona team that gives up 31.8 points per game.
However, Boles is a productive defensive lineman and has found ways to make contributions all season long. He is a little undersized at 306 pounds, but an NFL strength and conditioning program can easily get him to NFL size.
Game Day Grade: B-
Current Draft Stock: 5th Round
Next Week: The regular season wraps up with a visit from in-state rival Arizona State on Saturday. The Sun Devils like to run the ball more than you might expect, and average an impressive 190 yards per game. This is a good strength-on-strength matchup, so Boles should get every chance to have a productive game.
J.J. Taylor, RB
Game Stats: 20 CAR, 69 YDS
With a chance to impress against a top-10 opponent, J.J. Taylor simply failed to find a rhythm and finished with a disappointing 3.5 yards per carry, more than two yards per carry below a season average that even after Saturday’s clunker sits at 5.7 yards per carry.
This is still an impressive number, which shows how good Taylor had been coming into to Pullman. There are not a lot of positives from Saturday, two fumbles never help, and Taylor had 20 touches, which is more than enough to show more than what was shown on Saturday.
All of this being said, Taylor has had a great season to date with a 1200 yard season and has been the Wildcats’ biggest surprise this season.
Game Day Grade: C-
Current Draft Stock: 4th Round
Next Week: It all comes down to the Territorial Cup, where J.J. Taylor faces the Sun Devils, who give up a tick over 155 yards per game on the ground. A bounce-back game could be in store, especially with Taylor having been about equally productive both at home and on the road.