A wild night in Honolulu had a fitting conclusion.
Hawaii led Arizona for almost the entire game, but the Wildcats, with the explosive Khalil Tate at quarterback, had a chance to send the game to overtime in the final minute.
Trailing 45-38, Arizona regained possession with 45 seconds to play and Tate quickly led the offense into Hawaii territory. With 10 seconds remaining, the Wildcats were facing a first-and-10 from the Hawaii 31-yard line when Tate made a break for it.
After dropping back to pass, Tate found daylight to his right and sprinted toward the end zone. Time expired as Tate crossed inside the 5-yard line and he was finally tripped up by Hawaii’s Kalen Hicks and defensive end Manly Williams at the 1, preserving an upset victory for the Rainbow Warriors in dramatic fashion.
Had Tate gained another yard, Arizona could have tied the game with an extra point to send the game to overtime or set up a possible two-point conversion for the win.
Khalil Tate comes up less than a yard short of a game-tying TD as time expires. @HawaiiFootball squeezes out the 45-38 victory. 👀— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) August 25, 2019
WHAT A GAME! WHAT A START TO THE CFB SEASON!#CFBonCBS pic.twitter.com/yhXPySr4I4
It was the second clutch play made by Hawaii in the red zone in the fourth quarter. About seven minutes of game time earlier, Tate, with his team trailing 38-35, was intercepted in the end zone by Hawaii safety Ikem Okeke.
Okeke returned the ball out past midfield, setting up what ended up being the game-winning touchdown for the Rainbow Warriors: a 30-yard touchdown pass from Chevan Cordeiro to Cedric Byrd II.
Byrd had a huge night, hauling in 14 passes for 224 yards and four scores. His first three touchdown catches came from the arm of Cole McDonald. McDonald threw for 378 yards and four touchdowns, but he also threw four interceptions. After the fourth interception, Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich went to Cordeiro and he delivered with a beautiful touchdown strike to Byrd on third down.
The redshirt freshman @iam_clcxii comes into the game and throws an absolute DIME to take a 45-35 lead with 5:02 remaining.@cb4six reels in his 4th receiving TD of the game.@HawaiiFootball pic.twitter.com/0skPtZytkm— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) August 25, 2019
For Tate, the interception and final play were an unfortunate turn of events in a game that showed a return to form for a guy who was considered a Heisman contender entering the 2018 season. It took some time for Tate and new Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin (plus offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone) to establish chemistry in 2018. The fact that Tate suffered a significant ankle injury early in the year did not help matters in what ended up being a disappointing season.
On Saturday night, Tate looked healthy and showed what makes him such an exciting player. Tate finished the night with 361 yards and three touchdowns through the air with 108 yards on the ground. Ultimately, however, it was not enough to overcome Hawaii, and the Wildcats started the season on a down note.
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