TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Khalil Tate returned “home", but the starting quarterback was benched for the second half of Saturday’s loss to the Southern Cal Trojans on October 19.
Tate, coming off one of the worst games of his college career, threw for less than 50 yards in the first half. Tate, an Inglewood native, registered negative yards rushing on eight carries.
Tate was 13-for-25 passing with an interception, a fumble and was sacked four times in a 51-27 home loss against Washington last week. Arizona (4-3, 2-2Pac-12) has lost six straight to USC.
USC (4-3, 3-1), fresh off a heartbreaking 30-27 loss to No. 8 Notre Dame, had dropped three of its last four games.
At halftime, the Wildcats were down 17-0. In the second half, freshman Grant Gunnell threw for almost 200 yards. He was intercepted once and connected for two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Junior wide receive Brian Casteel caught both of those passes.
The Wildcats lost by a final of 41-14.
Saturday was the final chapter of Tate’s eventful history against USC.
The Arizona quarterback made his first collegiate start against the Trojans, going 7 of 18 for 58 yards and committing two turnovers as a 17-year-old freshman in 2016.
He then led a huge second-half rally at the Coliseum in 2017, rushing for 161 yards and passing for 146 yards with three total TDs and two interceptions in a comeback that fell just short. Tate had 270 total yards with two touchdowns and another interception last season against the Trojans, leading another comeback that didn’t result in a win.
Tate came into his last shot to beat the Trojans after a disappointing performance against the Huskies in which freshman Grant Gunnell came off the bench and led a late touchdown drive.
USC quarterback Kedon Slovis started at home for the first time since suffering a concussion on the opening series against Utah.
The freshman from Scottsdale is fourth in the nation after completing 75% of his throws, along with seven touchdown passes and four interceptions. Slovis’ best performance still was his first career start against Stanford in early September, but offensive coordinator Graham Harrell is confident in his star pupil’s growth.
Arizona’s passing defense has yielded 320.7 yards per game this season.
Slovis covered 232 yards in the air, including two touchdown completions.
Arizona running back J.J. Taylor returned last week from a leg injury that kept him out for most of the Wildcats’ two previous games. Opponents are averaging 197.2 yards per game on the ground against the Trojans, and Notre Dame had ample success on the ground last week against USC, both from running backs and quarterbacks.
Taylor covered 80 yards on 16 carries by the end of regulation.
Opponents have begun double-teaming USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who was dominant early in the season.
The Trojans haven’t given up on getting the ball to Pittman, but it opens up playmaking opportunities for Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns if the USC line can keep Slovis upright for long enough.
“We try to get (Pittman) touches and let him be special when the ball is in his hand,” Harrell said. “But we’ve got a lot of weapons, and we’ll try to use them.”
He caught one touchdown pass by the time the first half had ended. It stayed out of the end zone in the second half.
The Wildcats will travel again next Saturday. It’ll be an early start time when they face the Standford Cardinal at 12:30 p.m. Stanford lost to UCLA 34-16 Saturday.