The preseason expectations were raised in Arizona when Kevin Sumlin was hired to coach quarterback Khalil Tate.
But the Wildcats have stumbled out to a 3-5 overall record and are in fifth place in the Pac-12's South Division standings entering Saturday’s game against No. 19 Oregon at Arizona Stadium (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
Tate, who was expected to be a Heisman Trophy candidate playing in the offense Johnny Manziel thrived in for Sumlin at Texas A&M, did not play during last week’s 31-30 loss at UCLA and is questionable for Saturday.
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal and the Ducks will prepare for both Tate and Rhett Rodriguez, the son of former Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, as they look to bounce back from the 34-20 loss at Washington State.
“You’re preparing for two really good football players,” Cristobal said during his Monday news conference at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. “One that obviously is (talked about) in the Heisman race in Khalil Tate. Rodriguez, being the son of a coach, you can tell in his demeanor and his poise and the way he operates.
“Then you add the fact that he’s really talented. He’s one heck of a football player, he’s done a really nice job.”
In his first career start against the Bruins at the Rose Bowl, Rodriguez was 15 of 34 passing for 231 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I thought Rhett did some things that were really good and some things he would take back,” Sumlin told reporters Monday. “He was very critical of himself. In the end, he gave us a chance to win the game.”
Tate, who was injured during Arizona’s 42-10 loss at Utah on Oct. 12, has completed only 53.4 percent of his passes this season with 1,415 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.
After taking the Pac-12 by storm a year ago with his dynamic dual-threat skill set, Tate has only rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns under Sumlin.
"Running was out of the question and even dropping back and handing it off (was hard)," Sumlin said after replacing Tate with Rodriguez in Salt Lake City. "I saw a player that could barely move, so we had to make a change."
Arizona out-gained the Bruins 520-460, averaging 7.2 yards per play to UCLA’s 5.6 yards per play.
Running back J.J. Taylor was headed toward a 56-yard touchdown when UCLA’s Darnay Holmes punched the ball out and recovered the fumble in the end zone.
“Their running backs will make you miss, they’re explosive, they’ll create big chunk plays as well, explosive plays,” Cristobal said. “They’re running behind an offensive line that is long, athletic, so they present some challenges.”
Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew completed 39 of 51 passes for 323 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions against Jim Leavitt’s defense.
Oregon, which opens as a nine-point favorite, will try to get back on track against an Arizona offense that ranks 76th in scoring (27.8 ppg) and 39th in yards (438.8 ypg).
Injury, suspension updates
Cristobal said linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia, who made one tackle at Washington State, will have an MRI this week to determine the severity of his shoulder injury.
Starting running back CJ Verdell has a hip pointer but is expected to play at Arizona. Tony Brooks-James and Travis Dye are also expected to get carries after the Ducks mostly abandoned the run game after falling behind 27-0 in Pullman.
True freshman wide receiver Bryan Addison, a late addition to the roster after he was released from his commitment by UCLA, is serving an “in-house” suspension for violating team policy.
“He’s part of the team,” Cristobal said of Addison. “He will be practicing with the team within a couple of weeks, as long as he abides by what he needs to.”
Chip’s return set
Oregon’s Nov. 3 game against UCLA will be a 4:30 p.m. kickoff on Fox.
Chip Kelly, who posted a 46-7 record at Oregon from 2009 to 2012, will return to Autzen Stadium as the first-year coach of the Bruins, who have won their last two games after an 0-5 start.
The Ducks have won 11 of the past 14 meetings with UCLA. Kelly will have an extra 24 hours to prepare for Oregon with the Bruins hosting No. 23 Utah on Friday (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
Amadi a Thorpe Award semifinalist
Oregon’s Ugo Amadi is one of 14 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation’s top defensive back. The senior safety has returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns and has a team-high six pass breakups this season.
Amadi, who also has 31 tackles and 1.5 sacks, is the Pac-12’s active leader for career interceptions (eight).
Dillon Mitchell has 36 receptions for 510 yards in four Pac-12 games this season. According to Oregon, the junior wide receiver has been targeted 55 times by Justin Herbert over that span. …
The Ducks lead the Pac-12 and are eighth in the FBS with 11 interceptions. Cornerback Demmodore Lenoir and safeties Ugo Amadi and Jevon Holland have three interceptions each. …
The Ducks haven’t visited Tucson since their 42-16 loss on Nov. 23, 2013. Oregon was ranked No. 5 at the time and finished Mark Helfrich’s first season 11-2.
“The league is very good and ultra-competitive, so sometimes you almost cannibalize yourself as a conference where good teams are playing good teams,” Cristobal said of the muddy Pac-12 race. “There’s a lot of parity.”