Mike MacIntyre has yet to receive a thank you card from Tucson, Ariz.

Although, at this point, it's probably more likely that Colorado's head football coach would receive some not-so-friendly messages from Los Angeles, Berkeley and Pullman, Wash.

MacIntyre and the Buffaloes have moved on from their 45-42 loss to Arizona back on Oct. 7, but thanks to them, the rest of the Pac-12 is still stinging. And, the shockwaves are going national.

One hit - a late one at that - early in that Oct. 7 game has changed the complexion of the Pac-12 South race and soon might alter the push for the Heisman Trophy.

"I definitely know how it takes one play, one wrong step to change anyone's career," CU safety Ryan Moeller.

In this case, that one play happened just 2 minutes, 50 seconds into CU's game against Arizona.

Wildcats' starting quarterback Brandon Dawkins had been shaky in Arizona's 2-2 start to the year, and he was coming off a three-interception game in a loss to Utah in the conference opener. But, he was off to a good start against CU.

Dawkins had moved Arizona into CU territory when he tried to run to his left. CU cornerback Isaiah Oliver made a great play to hit Dawkins at the line of scrimmage near the sidelines. As Dawkins' momentum was carrying him out of bounds, CU's Drew Lewis and Moeller simultaneously hit him, with Moeller giving him just a bit of an extra shove.

Dawkins fell into the CU bench and got banged up on the play.


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CU was flagged 15 yards for the late hit, and Arizona turned to backup Khalil Tate until Dawkins was ready to return.

Dawkins hasn't seen the field since.

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said Dawkins could have returned that night against CU, but he's spent the last four weeks watching Tate explode.

In leading Arizona to four straight wins, Tate has rushed for 840 yards and eight touchdowns and thrown for 743 yards and six touchdowns.

Colorado’s Drew Lewis (right) and Ryan Moeller apply a late hit on Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins on Oct. 7 at Folsom Field. Dawkins
Colorado's Drew Lewis (right) and Ryan Moeller apply a late hit on Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins on Oct. 7 at Folsom Field. Dawkins hasn't played since because of the emergence of Khalil Tate. (Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera)
He was the best player in college football in October and was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the week four weeks in a row - becoming the first ever to do that.

While CU doesn't have to worry about Arizona anymore this year, some of the Buffs can't take their eyes off of Tate.

"The man is like a human joystick," Buffs running back Phillip Lindsay said. "It's like he wakes up and he knows he's going to break an 80-yard run again. I like the man and I think he deserves to be in the Heisman race. He's not just running the ball; the man is throwing the ball, too. He's going to do it for the rest of the year. The man is meant to do this. He's good. I like to watch him. I think we all do."

Tate doesn't have anywhere near the national following that Penn State's Saquon Barkley, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield or Stanford's Bryce Love have, but that could change soon.

To this point, he's done all of his work on the Pac-12 Network, which isn't quite as national as the conference would like. This week, Tate and the Wildcats will visit No. 17 USC and play on ESPN. Next week, he'll be on ESPN2 for a game against Oregon State.

If Tate is the best player in the country in November and the Wildcats keep winning - and it happens on national TV - he might he might earn himself a trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony.

"He's doing a great job," MacIntyre said. "If they keep winning big games, I'm pretty sure he should definitely get (to the Heisman ceremony as a finalist)."

That may seem crazy, considering Tate spent the first four games as a rarely-used backup, but consider the following:

  • Tate has gone from being a backup on a team projected to finish last in the South to being the star for a team that's now ranked No. 23 in the country and could win the conference.
  • Tate ranks 13th nationally in rushing, despite really only playing half of Arizona's eight games.
  • He's averaging 13.4 yards per rush. The FBS record for a full season is 11.51, by Army's Glenn Davis - in 1945.
  • At his current pace, Tate would rush for 1,766 yards and throw for 1,527.

The individual numbers are mind-numbing, but most impressive is how he's changed the outlook for the Arizona program. 

If the Wildcats can beat USC, they'll have a legitimate shot go from worst to first in the South. A year ago, CU made the biggest one-season improvement in conference history, going from 1-8 to 8-1. Arizona could repeat that feat.

All this began with that hit on Dawkins nearly a month ago.

"It's kind of interesting how it happened," Lewis said. "That did create the opportunity (for Tate), so that's good for him. It's pretty crazy how it happened."

There's no telling what would have happened if Dawkins had stayed in the game, although there was enough evidence over the past two years to confidently say the Wildcats wouldn't be where they are right now.

Maybe Tate would have emerged as a star eventually. There's no doubt, however, that the Buffs accelerated Tate's arrival and it's changed the fortunes of Rodriguez's team.

"I'll get a thank you card from him eventually, I think," MacIntyre joked.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.