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It was another one-score loss on Saturday, a recurring theme for Arizona in a season that has been derailed by injuries on both sides of the football as UCLA ran out the final 6+ minutes of the game to hold on for a 31-30 win. Even on a 3-5 Wildcat team, there are still impact players looking to show that they are ready for the next level.

Khalil Tate, QB

Game Stats: Did Not Play

A lingering ankle injury finally caught up to Khalil Tate, forcing the Arizona quarterback to the sideline for a game while Rhett Rodriguez picked up the offensive slack with a two-touchdown performance. Ultimately, it was not enough, as the Wildcats found themselves looking at a third one-score loss out of five losses this season.

Despite the third conference loss now hung on the ‘Cats, Tate and crew are in a logjam in the PAC 12 South, with five of the six South teams having two or three conference wins. As of Monday afternoon, Kevin Sumlin had not provided an update on Tate’s availability for Saturday’s game when the 5-2 Oregon Ducks come to town, but getting the top signal caller back should be the top priority.

Gameday Grade: Incomplete   

Current Draft Stock: Undrafted Free Agent

Next Week: No updates from Kevin Sumlin yet on Tate. If Tate is available on Saturday, the Oregon defense presents an interesting matchup. Nationally, Oregon is in the middle of the pack based on total defense.

However, just last week, the Ducks were picked apart by Gardner Minshew, who completed 39 passes for over 300 yards, so Tate (or Rhett Rodriguez) could be in line for a productive Saturday.

Shawn Poindexter, WR

Game Stats: 6 REC, 106 YDS, 2 TDS

After a rough three-game stretch and playing in a game without the luxury of Khalil Tate, it was a pleasant surprise to see the Wildcats leading receiver Shawn Poindexter turn a corner and haul in six catches, eclipse the 100-yard mark, and find the endzone in the second and third quarters against the Bruins subpar passing defense.

While the Wildcats ultimately fell short, Poindexter was productive throughout the game and Saturday’s performance showed big bounceback ability that no doubt helps his draft stock.

Gameday Grade: A-

Current Draft Stock: 2nd Round

Next Week: With Oregon in Tucson on Saturday, Poindexter now takes on a Ducks defense that gives up 250 passing yards per game, and just saw Washington State drop 34 points. Oregon has a much better defense than UCLA, but is leaky nonetheless. Expect Poindexter to have a productive game if whoever Saturday’s quarterback is can smoothly run the offense.

Layth Friekh, OL

Did Not Play

A nagging ankle issue that has been bothering Layth Friekh for three weeks sidelined the leader of the Arizona offensive line against UCLA after missing the second half against Utah. The Wildcats were able to put up an impressive 30 points in his absence, but ultimately lost the game.

Unfortunately, this is Friekh’s last year of eligibility, so there are only four games (five if Arizona can reach six wins and bowl eligibility) left for the senior to move his draft needle. Friekh put himself behind the proverbial eight ball when he had to miss two games after an NCAA ruling, and now the going only gets tougher with ankle injuries severely hampering a season that has had flashes of NFL potential.

I think that Friekh is better than most expect, and can definitely do more than anyone has seen this season. Whether it is in the later rounds of the draft or as an undrafted free agent, I expect Friekh to get a shot to make the league next year.

Gameday Grade: Incomplete

Current Draft Stock: 7th Round

Next Week: Friekh’s return against Oregon is up in the air, as Sumlin has to manage Friekh’s injury to both win games now as well as help prepare the senior for the upcoming draft. Friekh has a season plagued by ankle injuries and an NCAA ruling, so there is a lot more at stake than the Ducks on Saturday.

Oregon’s defensive line and linebackers are skilled, with Justin Hollins, Jalen Jelks, and Troy Dye being machines coming off the edge and can dominate a game at any time. If Friekh is able to make it back this week, how he holds up against the Ducks edge rushers will be a big measuring stick.

Kylan Wilborn, DL

Game Stats: Did Not Play

Sophomore edge rusher Kylan Wilborn missed Saturday’s loss to UCLA after missing last week’s game due to an undisclosed injury. It was a game in which the Wildcat’s desperately needed Wilborn’s speed from the edge. After the Arizona offense pulled to within 31-30 following a field goal with 6:28 left in the game, the UCLA offense was able to run out all six and half minutes and win the game.

If Wilborn is healthy and playing in this game, there is a much better chance of the Wildcat defense getting off the field and giving the Arizona offense a chance to drive and win the game.

Gameday Grade: Incomplete

Current Draft Stock: Undrafted Free Agent

Next Week: After a 1-point loss to UCLA in which Wilborn’s edge rushing speed would have been much appreciated, Oregon comes to town with a offense that averages almost 40 a game and a quarterback who is projected to go at the top of the first round – making getting to the quarterback and Wilborn’s health that much more important.

Dereck Boles, DL

Game Stats: 3 tackle, 3 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, Forced fumble

Make that a solid month for defensive tackle Dereck Boles, as the senior defensive lineman had his fourth game in a row with at least three solo stops. While the Arizona defense has given up points and yards in bunches, Boles has found ways to continue to be productive, which is easier said than done when your team is 3-5 and faces an uphill battle to reach bowl season.

This time, Boles’ third quarter sack forced a Wilton Speight fumble that was recovered by the ‘Cats and led to a game-tying touchdown a few plays later. While this has been Boles’ first sack of the year, the Arizona prospect has been consistently producing through a run of conference games, and is showing he can hold is own in the difficult PAC 12.

Gameday Grade: B+|

Current Draft Stock: 6th Round

Next Week: Dereck Boles and co. now return home to welcome a top-20 Oregon team that has an overtime win against Washington and is averaging almost 40 points a game.

Luckily for Boles, he doesn’t have to cover the Oregon receivers and try to slow down future NFL quarterback Justin Herbert. Instead, Boles is tasked with containing C.J. Verdell, who comes into the game seventh in the PAC-12 in total yards.

Jace Whittaker, CB

Game Stats: Did not play

Cornerback Jace Whittaker missed his eighth game of a 2018 season that is now halfway over for Arizona. Whittaker was suited up against UCLA, but did not play, so it is mostly guesswork to when the talented defensive back will return to the field, but the return could be sooner rather than later.

According to Kevin Sumlin, Whittaker has progressed, but has not participated in 7 on 7 or 11 on 11 drills. At this point in the season, the Wildcats are 3-5, but have single-score losses to USC, BYU, and now UCLA. There is no question that having a healthy Whittaker would improve the Wildcat defence significantly, but now, all fans can hope for is a comeback that leads the push to a bowl berth.

Gameday Grade: Incomplete

Current Draft Stock: Incomplete

Next Week: Kevin Sumlin really needs Jace Whittaker back to have a fighting chance at stopping Justin Herbert and the Ducks. Herbert is the top-rated quarterback in the PAC-12, and receiver Dillon Mitchell is fourth in the conference in yards, so Sumlin needs all hands on deck.

Henry Rounds

Author Henry Rounds

23 year-old from Pasadena who is an aspiring sports writer. I am a big football, baseball, basketball fan who loves the Dodgers and spending time outdoors.

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