It’s time for Scott to show more at QBby Anthony Gimino on Sep. 18, 2009, under Sports
It’s nearly the day of reckoning for Arizona quarterback Matt Scott.
Quarterback play has been the Wildcats’ big issue for several months, and the first two games of the season haven’t solved anything. Scott hasn’t been bad. He hasn’t been great. As is often the case, the backup quarterback — that would be Nick Foles, the guy with a better arm — remains a popular man on campus.
Now, comes Saturday’s game at Iowa.
If Scott, a sophomore, can handle the Hawkeyes defense, then there won’t be much of a quarterback controversy. If the physically imposing Hawkeyes choke off Arizona’s running game and make Scott throw the ball downfield — not his strength so far — might things get ugly?
UA coach Mike Stoops has offered a “no complaints” quote regarding Scott so far, and the coaches will go as far as they can with Scott until there is overwhelming evidence he can’t handle the job.
Foles might be the better passer, but Scott is, by a much wider margin, the superior runner. Stoops and offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes value how Scott’s feet change the defensive schemes.
“If you have a guy who can run around a little bit, it completely changes the way people can play you,” Dykes said.
“They will be less inclined to blitz you. They have one guy who has to assist with the possibility of the quarterback run, which is one less guy who is dropping out covering passes.”
Scott has completed 33 of 50 passes, a 66 percent accuracy rate that has been built behind a plethora of short passes.
It hasn’t helped that star tight end Rob Gronkowski has been out with a back injury. Leading wideout Delashaun Dean, who is trying to get back to full speed after a preseason leg injury, suffered a concussion last week against NAU. Mike Thomas, the Pac-10 career receptions leader, is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Arizona has been leading with the run game, averaging 305.5 yards. Some argue that Foles’ arm would loosen up the defense for the run game. Dykes says that is what Scott’s legs do — whether he uses them on designed runs or impromptu scrambles.
“One of the reasons we have run it so well is because of the mobility of our quarterback and the threat of him pulling it down,” Dykes said. “People have to respect him, which gives us extra numbers in the running game.”
Arizona hasn’t shown too much of the quarterback run game so far. It hasn’t shown much of anything. It hasn’t had to. The Wildcats jumped to early leads against Central Michigan and NAU, and were content to get out with a win.
Scott has rushed 16 times for 131 yards.
If Arizona has to play from behind against Iowa — or it is a close game, as expected — Scott’s misses on potential touchdown throws will become more glaring. This also will be Scott’s first start on the road, and it comes in a rowdy Big Ten stadium.
“What I like about him is he has a calmness about him,” Dykes said.
Foles might play a series or two against Iowa, Stoops said. At least that was the plan early in the week. Could be more or less depending on how Scott does in his biggest test, by far.
“We’ll know a lot more about our team Saturday,” Stoops said.