TUCSON, Ariz. -- If there was one thing we learned from Arizona's season-opening loss to BYU, it was that first-year Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin never talks about a quarterback's performance right after a loss.
"There is so much that goes into that," he said of the QB play.
Sure. We get it. The coach's eye much examine all the detail on the video, over and over, back and forth, before evaluating a final report card.
But the quarterback's performance?
That seems to be the one thing everyone wants to talk about after the 28-23 loss at Arizona Stadium.
Khalil Tate, whose running skills made him the best player in college football last October and a preseason Heisman Trophy contender entering the season, turned into a pocket passer Saturday night. He passed 34 times, completing 17.
Sure, as he famously wrote on Twitter last season, he didn't want to run the triple option -- a knock against Arizona head coaching candidate Ken Nuimatalolo (who wasn't going to run the triple option here as he does at Navy) -- but Tate hardly ran a single option against BYU.
He didn't even scramble when he had the chance.
In eight starts last season (plus the Colorado game), Khalil Tate rushed fewer than 13 times only once, that coming in the ASU game, when he hurt his shoulder right before halftime. Saturday night: 8 carries, 14 yards.
"I want to win. That's the overall reason to playing football," he said, when asked if he wanted to run more. "Once the team wins, everybody wins."
But Arizona lost.
So much for that preseason buzz.
Sumlin and new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone did talk publicly through the offseason about wanting to make Tate more of a pocket passer, a full-service quarterback better at making pre-snap reads and not taking off at the first sign of trouble.
Question is: Were they too stubborn in that effort or were they just taking what the BYU defense gave them Saturday? Or was Tate himself too determined to showcase his arm?
"Certainly, they put together a blueprint with the way they play defense with the edges and not really attacking the inside," Sumlin said of BYU. "If teams are going to play like that, we have to get to some inside runs quicker that make the edges less effective."
Maybe that explanation satisfies you, maybe not. But Arizona will have to figure out plenty before playing at Houston, and All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver, next Saturday.
"There were some things that we were doing to try to keep them guessing on a lot of stuff and keep them contained, which meant we couldn't just tee off and try to come after him and apply pressure," BYU coach Kalani Sitake said of containing Tate.
"I think we tried to play with a lot of things in front and we took some chances here and there and played a lot of coverage with our corners."
Arizona led 10-7 at halftime, but BYU scored touchdowns on three consecutive third-quarter possessions, wrapped around two three-and-outs by the Wildcats offense. Sumlin lamented taking shots passing the ball on first down on those drives.
The Cats came back to get within 28-23 with 3:20 to go, following a 1-yard by J.J. Taylor and a failed two-point conversion. With two timeouts remaining, Sumlin elected to kick deep. BYU converted a key third-and-2 and managed to run out the clock.
"Was there a debate in my mind? Yeah, in my mind there was," Sumlin said. "If we didn't have any timeouts left, that's a different situation. ... If we get them stopped on third down, they've got to punt it, we get the ball back with one timeout left. That was basically the decision that was made right now."
That didn't work out, so Tate and the offense and Mazzone never got a final drive for redemption.
"All is not lost. We have a lot more football to play," Sumlin said.
"There are things we are going to go to work and fix. The key to that is to stay together as a team and to understand that, hey, look, even if we had come back to win the game, we've still got issues. We have to address those issues honestly as a coaching staff and as a team and then move forward."