Two quarterbacks named Matt entered Arizona Stadium on Saturday, with one considered a Heisman candidate.
It was hard to tell which was which.
USC’s Matt Barkley, the golden boy of college football, threw for a school-record 493 yards, but the day belonged to the other SoCal kid, Arizona’s Matt Scott.
The fifth-year senior from Corona, Calif., in what certainly is the highlight of his career, passed for 369 yards, ran for 100 yards and threw for a late fourth-quarter touchdown just a few plays after being knocked woozy and throwing up.
Rick Neuheisel on the Pac-12 Networks marveled over Scott’s tough-guy performance, saying, “This is John Wayne playing quarterback.”
True Grit, indeed.
Scott’s 469 yards of total offense led the Wildcats to a 39-36 victory over the 10th-ranked Trojans. His final play was a 9-yard touchdown strike to receiver David Richards that gave the Cats a 39-28 lead with 5:36 to go.
“It was a perfect pass,” Richards said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Three plays earlier, Scott had been hit in the head twice on a designed run that gained 8 yards. USC safety T.J. McDonald picked up a personal foul as Scott slid feet first to the Trojans 19.
You can say that Scott left it all on the field.
“It looked like from my vantage point that whatever he had for breakfast is no longer in him,” coach Rich Rodriguez said. “It’s all at about the 20-yard line. But that was a phenomenal throw. It probably won the game for us.”
After USC cut the lead to 39-36 less than a minute later, trainers held out Scott for Arizona’s final possession. He was not made available to the media in the usual postgame interview setting, but Scott seemed just fine on the field after the game, when he did a brief ESPN interview.
“It means a lot,” he said of beating USC in his only career action against the Trojans. “They have a whole bunch of great players, and to come out with a win means a lot to this team.”
Rodriguez and a couple of teammates said Scott seemed fine after the game; the next update on his status could come Monday, when Rodriguez holds his weekly news conference.
Scott could only watch as B.J. Denker came in and handed off to Carey seven consecutive times, making a nice play by grabbing a high shotgun snap.
“I wanted to cry,” Scott said of being on the sideline at the end of the game. “I was sad, man. I wanted to come back in, but the trainers wouldn’t let me. But B.J. came in and finished it off for me.”
Scott’s 100 rushing yards, on 15 carries, were a career high. His 469 yards of total offense was the fourth-highest total in school history. Just two games ago, he had 485 total yards against Stanford.
He completed 27 of 50 passes for 369 yards against USC, with three touchdowns and one interception. He showed off his strong arm on more than few occasions, including a 60-yard strike to Austin Hill on third-and-22 from the UA 16, a play that led to the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Matt is a warrior. I love him for it,” Hill said.
“He always get the yards we need, as a runner with his feet and he also has a great arm and can get the ball to receivers in the right spot. I think he’s been playing great.”
Scott moved to No. 2 nationally in total offense at 386.13 yards per game, trailing only Baylor quarterback Nick Florence (414.14).
Scott ran more against USC than he has since early in the season, usually just taking the shotgun snap and charging through the middle of the line.
“We just really kind of switched,” Carey said.
“I played fullback and he played the running back. I gave him the holes, and he was hitting them. I was proud of him in this game. I told him to hang in there and keep pushing, tough guy that he is.”
Tough and talented.
Arizona has never had a first-team all-conference quarterback since joining the Pac-12 in 1978.
That could change.
“Matt Barkley is a tremendous player, obviously one of the best ever in the Pac-12,” Rodriguez said.
“But when you talk about some of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and you mention Matt Barkley, you need to mention Matt Scott. Anybody who hadn’t seen him but saw him today would say the same thing.”