TUCSON, Ariz. – Here’s a little-known fact: Arizona quarterback Matt Scott is 7-1 all time as a starter.
Who would have thought it? Maybe Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, who has stated numerous times Scott is as competitive an athlete as he’s ever seen or been around.
This from a coach who has tutored former West Virginia star quarterback Pat White and Michigan’s Denard Robinson.
“They all have that one trait … They play with a chip on their shoulder,” Rodriguez said.
Reason? In part because they were lightly recruited or ran into circumstances where they were on the bench. Scott – after starting early in his Arizona career – found himself in a reserve role behind Nick Foles for the better part of three years.
Timing and circumstance now have Scott with something to prove. Saturday — against high-powered Oregon — is another opportunity.
“It bothers me when people say they have nothing to prove,” Rodriguez said. “If you are keeping score, you always do.”
Saturday night’s game in Eugene against the third-ranked Ducks gives Scott the chance to prove himself in front of his largest audience yet.
On the road.
On the same stage as a Ducks’ offense by whom all others are judged.
Rodriguez has no doubt Scott’s up to the challenge.
“I think he even likes practice,” Rodriguez said. “I think it goes back to the (having) the hunger to prove yourself. I would hope our guys have that all the time. We certainly need to have that as a program. Our program has a lot to prove.”
A good showing this week is a chance for the Wildcats and Scott to put themselves on the national map.
Scott, a fifth-year senior, enters the game leading the Pac-12 in passing yards per game (331.7), connecting on 71.5 percent of his attempts. He’s also run for 63.3 yards a game — putting him fourth nationally in total offense at 395 yards per game. He’ll be matched up against the Pac-12’s passing efficiency leader Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, who ranks fifth in total offense at 260.7 yards per game.
Scott’s duel threat gives Arizona hope at a win. His competitive fire adds to the chance.
“Some people say you want to restrain it because a quarterback, you don’t want him to run too much,” Rodriguez said, “but that’s an admirable trait.”
Rodriguez joked that with a player whose competitive fire burns as fiercely as Scott’s, he can either tell him “whoa” or “sic ’em.”
“I don’t have to say, ‘sic ’em’ with Matt Scott,” he said.
Scott doesn’t need anyone to tell him that. And his actions are infectious.
“He has so much confidence, it comes off like an aura,” said sophomore wideout Austin Hill, the recipient of 17 of Scott’s passes. “It makes everyone else confident.
“We’ve been getting better every week, and a lot of that has to do with Matt and his leadership.”
Scott says he believes in fighting to the finish, a trait that reflects not only his approach to each game, but his career.
“Oregon is a top-five team,” Scott said. “We’re coming off a strong week, and we want to show them that we are capable of beating them.”
Hill was named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List on Tuesday. It’s an award presented annually to college football’s outstanding receiver.
Hill, a native of Corona, Calif., played in a reserve roll against Toledo and took over starting duties at the slot receiver position for the Oklahoma State game. He’s made 17 catches while averaging 106.3 yards per game and 18.8 yards per catch.
“It’s an honor to be on a list like that,” Hill said. “I don’t want it to get to my head. I just want to keep playing the best I can and help the team.”
Arizona senior Dan Buckner is already on the list.