As Arizona QB Nick Foles lay on the turf of Martin Stadium clutching his knee, you could feel the air going out of the sails of thousands of Wildcat fans watching across the nation. This was how it would end. The dream of finally reaching the Rose Bowl seemed almost impossible without ‘Sunshine’ there to lead the way.
As I watched backup QB Matt Scott warm up, visions of INTs and three-and-outs danced in my head. Certainly, I expected the Wildcats to defeat the lowly Cougars. But I didn’t expect the performance that Scott delivered.
Full story and video of QB coach Frank Scelfo discussing Matt Scott afther the jump.
Have no fear, I will not attempt to paint Scott’s game as some virtuoso performance. It was merely a good performance against an incredibly overmatched defense. What was impressive, was the vast improvements in his game since last we saw Scott play a meaningful down of football.
Gone was the QB who ran almost immediately, conveying a much greater trust of his legs than his arm. Scott stood tall in the pocket, patiently waiting for his receivers to get open. Gone were the high, sailing passes. Scott completed 14 of 20 pass attempts, for 139 yards, with his first completion coming on his first play. A nice 25 yard pass to FB Taimi Tutogi. The most impressive thing about that completion? Scott looked absolutely calm. No jitters. No over-celebration. It looked like business as usual.
Credit the coaching staff for trusting Scott. The designed QB run plays of his previous starts were not used. Scott was running the offense like a pocket QB that had the option of running. Not like a scrambling QB that was trying to keep the defense honest by completing a few passes. In fact, one of the knocks against his game that night was that he waited too long to run on several occasions.
If the offensive coaching staff continues calling the plays as they did against WSU, I believe it will give Scott a much better chance to succeed than any designed QB run ever will. Run too many option or QB runs and that defense will play a bit too honest. Of course I’m not suggesting abandoning the run. But don’t play as if it’s the only option. Use the run to set up the pass. Nothing revolutionary about that, to be sure. I do recommend keeping the passes short to mid-range, (unless someone is wide open), at least until Scott gets a little more game time under his belt. When the defense drops back to cover the pass, Scott will be able to do so much more damage with his legs than if he was running an option.
I remain concerned about how Scott will handle the tougher conference games. If he is still starting at that point, I see no reason why he can’t at least be ‘good enough’ for now. As I’m watching the game against Washington this Saturday in Arizona Stadium, I’ll try to channel the wild enthusiasm I felt leading up to Matt Scott’s first start in Arizona. "He was a Joe Montana Award runner-up!" "A dual threat QB!" And not the gut wrenching disappointment of later performances.
Let me close with two decidedly positive notes.
-Matt Scott got very little practice time leading up to the Washington St. game, and will now have QB coach Frank Scelfo’s undivided attention.
-The Washington defensive staff has ridiculously little information with which to formulate an effective game plan against the Matt Scott version of the Arizona offense.