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USC to keep a close eye on Arizona’s Tate

September 28, 2018
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FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2018, file photo, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate (14) runs with the ball during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Southern Utah in Tucson, Ariz. Tate has been limited by an ankle injury and has yet to reel off long touchdown runs as he did while becoming a Heisman Trophy candidate a year ago. Southern California is not about to forget about Arizona's junior quarterback Saturday night in the desert. The Trojans know all it takes is one missed assignment or tackle and they'll be looking at the back of Tate's jersey as he races off to the end zone. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Khalil Tate has been limited by an ankle injury and has yet to reel off long touchdown runs as he did while becoming a Heisman Trophy candidate a year ago.

Southern California is not about to forget about Arizona’s junior quarterback Saturday night in the desert. The Trojans (2-2, 1-1 Pac-12) know all it takes is one missed assignment or tackle and they’ll be looking at the back of Tate’s jersey as he races off to the end zone.

“He’s still a threat back there,” USC linebacker Porter Gustin said. “If you get to him, he can escape, so that hasn’t changed. We’ve still got to contain the pocket, stay in our rush lanes and not let him split us. That’s something that we definitely emphasize.”

Tate has yet to have the impact he last season, when he went from backup to nearly unstoppable force. Tate has already eclipsed 1,000 yards passing with eight touchdowns, but the running has been limited, in part due to a left ankle injury suffered against Houston the second game of the season.

A season after leading the nation in yards per carry, Tate has been limited to 43 yards on 23 carries under new coach Kevin Sumlin. Tate threw two touchdown passes in last week’s win over Oregon State.

“Because of some things that have happened with him physically, the things that he’s encountered the last three weeks, I think he’s handled things pretty well,” Sumlin said.

A few more things to look for when Arizona hosts USC Saturday night:

DANIELS STRIDING: USC true freshman JT Daniels had some uneven moments early in the season, but seemed to find his stride in last week’s 39-36 win over Washington State. Daniels completed 17 of 26 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns while leading the Trojans back from a 13-point, second-half deficit. “Each game so far has just been more and more experience,” he said.

TAYLOR TAKES OFF: Arizona running back J.J. Taylor ran for 201 combined yards the first three games as Arizona (2-2, 1-0) tried to find its offensive foothold. The Wildcats and Taylor certainly did last week. Taylor ran for a Reser Stadium-record 284 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon State, earning Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors. The 284 yards was fourth all-time at Arizona.

NO TURNOVERS: The Trojans and Wildcats have struggled to force turnovers through the first four games. Arizona is last in the Pac-12 with one turnover and USC is second-worst with two. “Maybe we’re trying too hard,” USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. “I think a lot of times in my career the turnovers kind of come in bunches, so hopefully sometime soon that will start falling in our favor. But it’s definitely something that we’re not happy about.”

TRACKING AMON-RA: USC is loaded with talented wide receivers, as usual. The one Arizona will have to pay particular attention to is freshman Amon-Ra St. John. He leads the Trojans with 342 yards receiving and two touchdowns, and is second to Tyler Vaughns with 20 catches. St. Brown was limited in practice this week due to a shoulder injury, but USC is expecting him to play.

NUMBERS: Arizona leads the Pac-12 with 519.2 yards per game and 247.2 yards rushing per game. ... USC LB Cameron Smith leads the Pac-12 with 30 solo tackles and had 15 total tackles against Washington State. ... Arizona held Oregon State to 238 total yards, the fewest the Wildcats have allowed against a conference opponent since 2009. ... USC has won five straight and seven of eight against Arizona.

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