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Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate continues to defy odds, especially when the Colorado Buffaloes are lined up against him. The senior signal-caller and ultimate playmaker, who first burst onto the collegiate scene by setting a FBS record for quarterbacks in 2017, when he rushed for 327 yards in Boulder, worked his magic yet again. Tate completed 31-of-41 passes for 404 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday, giving him 13 touchdowns (run and pass) against Colorado in the last three seasons, all Arizona wins.

In what proved to be a back-and-forth affair that featured nine lead changes, it was Arizona’s defense getting two critical stops in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in the game. The first came early in the quarter with Arizona holding a slim 28-27 advantage and Colorado well-positioned to score with a first-and-goal inside the 4-yard line. On first down, interior lineman Trevon Mason blew up an inside run for a 2-yard loss. Mason’s teammates joined the party from there, forcing the Buffaloes to settle for a field goal and a 30-28 advantage.

Led by Tate, Arizona’s offense took over and patiently marched 77 yards in 13 plays to score on a 5-yard run by Nathan Tilford, his second rushing touchdown of the game, to lead 35-30. In what seemed like an inevitable Colorado scoring answer, Arizona’s defense got incredibly stingy near midfield, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down to give the ball back to the offense and run out the clock.

Arizona (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) leaves the Centennial State as the last remaining undefeated team in the Pac-12 South Division, with wins over divisional foes UCLA and Colorado.

The Buffaloes (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) drop an important home game after stealing one on the road against Wildcat rival Arizona State two weeks ago. Colorado, who gained 496 total yards against Arizona, were plagued by injuries and miscues. The Buffs were without star wide out Laviska Shenault, cornerback Chris Miller and defensive end Mustafa Johnson to start the game, and then saw safety Mikial Onu, receiver K.D. Nixon, and defensive lineman Jalen Sami depart due to injury.

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Adding insult to injury, Colorado committed eight penalties for 85 yards.

Tony Brown filled Shenault’s shoes well, leading Colorado with 10 catches for 141 yards, while quarterback Steven Montez completed 28-of-42 passes for 299 yards and score. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome a Wildcat team that continues to win games in a variety of ways.

Winners of four straight games, Arizona defeated Texas Tech with a devastating rushing game and a stingy defense. Against UCLA, Arizona used true freshman quarterback Grant Gunnell to throw the ball 44 times. In beating Colorado, the elusiveness of Tate in the pocket served to extend plays as Wildcat receivers did an excellent job finding gaps in Colorado’s secondary, while timely blitzes and a mix of pass coverage looks allowed Arizona’s defense to get enough stops to earn a vital victory away from home.

For example, although Colorado was a perfect 4-for-4 scoring inside the red zone, three of those scores were field goals. Conversely, Arizona was a perfect 3-for-3 in scoring three touchdowns inside the red zone. The 21-16 scoring advantage by the Wildcats inside the red zone is the reason why Arizona was able to edge Colorado, overall, by five points.

Arizona will now host No. 15 Washington this weekend in Tucson. The Huskies will assuredly drop in the national polls after losing to Stanford Saturday evening in Palo Alto. Still, the matchup will be a big one, with the Wildcats looking to all but eliminate Washington from the North Division race while securing their own position atop the South Division.

Meanwhile, Colorado has a short week as they prepare to visit Oregon on Friday.