This time, Arizona QB Khalil Tate baffles Buffs with his arm

Khalil Tate celebrates with Shawn Poindexter after a touchdown.Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Tate throws for 5 TDs, sets career high for passing yards

Khalil Tate is still Colorado's nightmare.

Friday night, though, he totally rewrote the script.

Khalil Tate: Death Through the Air

A season after setting an FBS record for rushing yards with 327 against Colorado, Tate let it fly against the Buffaloes, setting a career-high with 350 yards and matching his personal best with five touchdown passes in the Arizona Wildcats' 42-34 victory.

The junior completed 17 of 22 passes, with one interception. That's 20.6 yards per completion, which is what happens when you connect on pass plays of 40, 33, 45, 21, 39 and 57 yards.

He rushed only four times ... even if Colorado must have been hyper-aware of the possibility of him doing so every snap. But this was Tate 2.0.

"I think it speaks on how hard I worked in the offseason," Tate said of his evolution as a quarterback. "It was something that I really took into consideration that I have to become a better passer.

"Having the receiving corps that I have, having the offensive line that I have, having the running back that I have, that helps a lot. It helps me do my job. It helps all of us."

The deep pass is something that Arizona and Tate have been trying all season, although not with great results. For the most part Friday night, Tate delivered the ball at the right spot with a variety of receivers making difficult catches, such as Stanley Berryhill hauling in a 40-yard touchdown pass while drawing an interference penalty; Devaughn Cooper with a 33-yard one-handed grab and Tony Ellison with an over-the-shoulder catch amid tight coverage for 45 yards.

"That's something we looked at early on in the week on film," Tate said of the deep passes. "We knew we were going to have those chances. We knew we had to come down with those chances to be successful. That's what we did tonight."

What's a Colorado defender to do?

"Honestly, we should have had picks on a couple of them," said Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre. "But he ran around and made some really nice throws. ... That was some really good athletic plays by him."

The 2017 runner has become a 2018 passer, and the Buffs have been the wrong opponent at the wrong time in each season. Tate was stunning with his legs when he came off the bench early in last season's matchup for an injured Brandon Dawkins, and he seems to be settling into his role as a big-play passer as this season reaches its conclusion.

"They made some big plays," MacIntyre said. "Khalil ran around and threw it up in the air and their guys came down with it on long, delayed plays. Those were tough to stop."

That's the thing. Although Tate rushed only twice (two other runs were sacks), he ran around and scrambled effectively, allowing his receivers to get down field.

"He keeps his eyes downfield and he has an unbelievable arm to throw on the run," said Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin. "There's a lot of people who can do that but can't throw like that."

Tate also had a key 25-yard run -- his longest of the season -- on third-and-7 from the Arizona 18 early in the fourth quarter.

So many of those kind of rushing opportunities have been there this season, although he has far more often overlooked those in an effort to throw downfield. Perhaps some of that has had to do with a bum ankle. But Tate, overall, has played better in the past two games since sitting out a week to let that left ankle heal.

"There's the good with the bad, right?" Sumlin said. "He took off tonight and ran. There are two other times he could have done that, probably should have done that -- just put the ball down and taken off. But he threw a couple of touchdowns doing that, too.

"I think he understands things a lot more than he did at the beginning of the year, but I think as his health gets better, I think you see a confidence in his right now, too. That's as fast as I've seen him since spring football."

Yep. Wrong place, wrong time for Colorado.

Tate, in the past two games against CU, has 14 plays of more than 20 yards -- seven runs last season; six passes and one run this season.

In two games vs. Colorado, his stats look like this:

--29 of 35 passing, 504 yards, 6 TDs

--18 rushes, 342 yards, 4 TDs

By ground or by air ...

"I think we did pretty well," he said after last night's game. "We had 566 yards of offense, so, I mean, we did pretty good."