WSU quarterbacks throw for more than 600 yards, but four interceptions take their toll

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Turns out, fast-rising Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate wasn’t Washington State’s only problem Saturday.

The Cougars couldn’t really stop his teammates, either.

In WSU’s 58-37 defeat against the Wildcats before 42,822 spectators at Arizona Stadium, Arizona ripped off three scoring plays of 48 yards or more — plus a 57-yard field goal — in addition to an 82-yard run from Tate and a late 68-yard pass play from Tate to Jamie Nunley that set up another touchdown.

And offensively, where the Cougars wobbled at times with both Luke Falk and Tyler Hilinski at quarterback, WSU also gave up a 66-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter when Arizona linebacker Colin Schooler intercepted Hilinski over the middle and raced into the end zone.

Total damage on one side of the ball: A total of 585 offensive yards for Arizona, including 421 from Tate. Damage on the other side of the ball: Four interceptions that dragged down Hilinski’s 509 passing yards … and a number of eyerolls from WSU coach Mike Leach.

“I thought they played hard but dumb,” Leach said of his Cougars. “I thought we played extremely hard. But they had big plays and we got frantic, which meant we played harder and out of position.

“We played hyperaggressive and tried to do too much.”

Hilinski, playing a major role for the second time this season after helping the Cougars to a triple-overtime victory against Boise State, blamed himself.

“I think I was trying to do too much, trying to make it all happen on one play,” Hilinski said. “When you get in the game, you kind of want to go score on every play, but you’ve gotta be smart at the same time.”

Hilinski engineered a 75-yard touchdown drive upon entering the game in the second quarter, but was intercepted three times in the third quarter and once in the fourth.

“You’d think I’d learn my lesson after the first one or two. I’ve got to limit my mistakes, obviously,” he said.

Hilinski’s final interception proved the most costly when Schooler raced over the middle to grab it, and then angled toward the left side of the field and eventually fell into the end zone.

The ensuing extra point gave Arizona a 51-30 lead with 11:11 left, which was all but over even as Tay Martin took in a 49-yard touchdown pass with 9:46 left.

The defeat dropped No. 15 WSU to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-12, while Arizona improved to 6-2 and 4-1.

Tate wound up with 275 passing yards after completing 10 of 17 passes, while rushing for another 146 yards.

That was about on par with his production over the previous three games, when he totaled 1,162 yards in Arizona victories over Colorado, UCLA and California.

While Arizona was without tailback Nick Wilson, who dressed but didn’t play because of an ankle injury, the Wildcats still got 157 rushing yards and two touchdowns from J.J. Taylor and a 48-yard touchdown reception from Nunley in the first quarter.

The Cougars couldn’t match that kind of production.

Falk was just 13 of 23 passing for 93 yards and exited late in the second quarter.

“We didn’t think he had his best stuff,” Leach said. “We weren’t pushing the ball up the field.”

Hilinski did manage to move the ball, throwing for 509 yards while completing 45 of 61 throws, but drives ended suddenly with his interceptions.

Besides, for every success Hilinski would have, Tate or his teammates would respond, with Tate keeping the pressure on until the end.

“I think he’s a real good runner,” Leach said of Tate. “He keeps constant pressure on you, and then if you let him off the hook…”

That’s pretty much what Tate did late in the game. Early in the fourth quarter, WSU kicker Erik Powell made a career-long 56-yard field goal to pull the Cougars to 37-30 after a 51-yarder was called back because of a delay of game. But Tate then ripped off his first rushing touchdown of the game, a 49-yarder that put Arizona ahead 44-30.

Midway through the third quarter, WSU took its first lead of the game, 27-23, while driving 29 yards following a fumble by Tate. But the lead lasted all of two plays.

Arizona’s Taylor ripped off a 62-yard run to reach the Cougars’ 3-yard line and then rushed in the 3-yard touchdown to help put Arizona back up by three, 30-27.

Hilinski connected on passes of 24 yards (to Tavaras Martin) and 30 (to Dezmon Patmon) to get to the Arizona 8, with Martin having returned Saturday after a one-game suspension. But Hilinski was intercepted in the end zone by Jace Whittaker and Taylor escaped for a 79-yard touchdown romp on the second play of the next drive.

It was the same scene, over and over, and WSU safety Robert Taylor had seen enough.

“It’s just guys not executing,” Taylor said. “Bad eyes, including mine. … They’re a great team, but they executed and we didn’t. That’s the bottom line.”

Late in the second quarter, though, the Cougars appeared to have some fresh life injected from Hilinski, who engineered a 75-yard touchdown drive immediately after replacing Falk.

Hilinski completed 7 of 8 passes on that first drive then scored on a 6-yard touchdown run, pulling WSU to within 20-14 — though Arizona freshman Lucas Hav­risik nailed his first field goal, a 57-yard attempt, with one second left before halftime to give Arizona a 23-14 halftime lead.

While that trend of big Arizona plays never really changed Saturday, the Cougars had some consolation.

Even at 4-2 in the Pac-12 North, they still have a chance to win the division because head-to-head games with Washington (4-1) and Stanford (5-1) still remain.

But consolation wasn’t exactly settling in during the moments immediately following the game Saturday for Leach.

Mostly what he saw was frustration.

“It was all right there for us,” Leach said. “We just did it so stupidly. We run hard and slam hard into the wall instead of going through the door. We did it over and over.”