Rodriguez cuts legs out from under QB

TUCSON – If Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez could put his quarterback Matt Scott in bubble wrap, he would.

Better to be safe than sorry. Lest his record-setting quarterback get hurt and go down for a game – or, gasp – a season. Then what?

So Scott, with the potential to be one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, seemingly ideally suited for Rodriguez’s spread offense, is limited in what he can do with the football. He throws. And, he throws. And, well, you get the picture.

“We’re trying to protect him as much as we can,’’ Rodriguez admitted.

“We’re running him less than (the past) and running him less than he wants to run. He wants to run more. But him throwing the football and our guy’s ability to catch has been the strength of our offense.’’

Don’t get Rodriguez wrong. Arizona still needs to establish the run. Just not with its indispensible quarterback. Passing – and plenty of it – will be Scott’s primary responsibility Saturday night against visiting Washington at Arizona Stadium.

It would help if Arizona’s offensive line gets healthy. There’s still no word on whether three-fifth of UA’s line will be ready to play. Against Stanford, it wasn’t.

“We’ll see how it goes,’’ said Scott about ramping up the Arizona running game.

What’s clear, however, is that he’d like to be part of the run game. He’d like to put the do in the dual threat. But it’s not up to him. It’s up to the offensive line and his coach.

Until that changes, he’s a passer first and almost exclusively. He’s averaging 349.8 passing yards a game (leading the Pac-12 Conference) and is fourth nationally. And despite the limited game plan, he’s also chipped in 39.8 yards a game rushing, putting him fifth in the nation in total offense with 386.8 yards per game.

Scott’s numbers are almost out of a video game. Stop him if you can:

• He has three of Arizona’s top nine single-game total offense performances of all time (485 at Stanford, 461 vs. Toledo, and 432 vs. Oregon State.

• His 2,321 total yards in 2012 already rank No. 9 in single-season history, with half a season to play. Another 144 yards will move him into the No. 6 spot.

• He’s five touchdown passes away from cracking the top 10 for career touchdown passes, despite less than a full season as a starter.

• With another 248 yards, he’ll crack the top 10 for passing yards in a season; 269 puts him in ninth place. That could come Saturday, with another five games (maybe six, with a bowl berth) to zero in on the top of the chart.

But those numbers are secondary.

“I don’t look at them too much,’’ Scott said of the numbers. “I don’t care what they are. I just wish we were winning… that we were 6-0 or 5-1. I’m not concerned with the numbers.”

The numbers may be tougher to come by this weekend. Washington’s defense is giving up an average of 172.7 yards per game, second best in the Pac-12.

Rodriguez says he’s “glad B.J. (Denker) is here,” but the junior-college transfer and backup quarterback has seen the field and is clearly not at Scott’s level, so the Wildcats will do everything in their power to keep No. 10 on the field — even if he doesn’t quite enjoy the freedom that Pat White (West Virginia) and Denard Robinson (Michigan) had while running the same style attack.
“We’ve been thin everywhere I’ve been early,” Rodriguez said. “It took a couple of years to develop the depth. That’ll be the same thing here. I’m glad B.J. is here, but we have to get to the point where we have at least two quarterbacks we can win with. I have all the confidence in B.J., but we have to have at least three (good quarterbacks) in the program.”

Until then, have the bubble wrap ready.