TUCSON, Ariz. — In time, Arizona’s Austin Hill will talk to Matt Scott about the Arizona State game. Friday night – into early Saturday morning – as Arizona players were filing out of Arizona Stadium was not the time.
Defeat is never easy to accept. How do you tell your quarterback everything will be alright after losing 41-34 to a rival just minutes and moments after being on the verge of victory?
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“I don’t think he feels great right now,” Hill said early Saturday morning, about 30 minutes after Arizona’s come-from-ahead loss to Arizona State in the regular-season finale.
“I haven’t spoken to him much yet. I’m just the type of player who wants to give people their space. Let people just deal with a little themselves. I’ll talk to him later when everything cools down. I want to win the next game for the seniors, because we wouldn’t have won anything without them.”
Scott included. In fact, where would Arizona have ended up this season had it not been for the heroics of Scott, the Wildcats’ Houdini-like quarterback who turned a transitional season into a magical year?
Friday night just wasn’t his night. And while he certainly didn’t pick the time for his worst game of the year – who picks times to have bad game? – he did, misfiring on an number of passes and producing mishaps galore, turning the ball over four times.
Hill blamed the receivers for mistakes and bad timing. Whatever the case, Scott — who was not made available for postgame interviews — had three interceptions and one oh-so-costly fumble, with all of those turnovers being converted into ASU touchdowns.
“Any time there is a turnover either way, there is a huge momentum swing,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “We had been pretty good on taking care of the ball.
“Turnovers hurt us. But not one play beat us. There were several plays.”
Like Scott’s fumble that came with 8:39 left and Arizona driving in what could have – would have? – been the end of ASU’s chances. UA was up 27-20 and on ASU’s 18 when Scott was stripped after a short gain on a designed run play; the Sun Devils eventually picked up Scott’s rolling fumble on their own 44-yard line and scored six plays later to tie it.
Arizona followed that turnover with a special-teams error – a blocked punt deep in UA territory – and a play later, ASU had the lead and all the momentum.
Bam. Sudden change at a head-swiveling pace.
The Sun Devils’ pressure up front in their attempt to rattle Scott paid off. For the game, the Arizona quarterback finished an un-Scott-like 19 for 39 for 230 yards with three touchdowns but the aforementioned four turnovers.
“Matt’s decisions were OK, but I’m sure there are some he’d like to have back,” Rodriguez said. “We just weren’t sharp. Matt’s a stud.
“There were some passes we didn’t execute today that we normally would, but you have to give them credit, too. They did a good job of getting pressure on us.”
And Arizona just didn’t handle it. But such is the rules when it comes to this rivalry. Surprising, unexpected things happen. Star quarterbacks who go into games averaging 300.8 yards a game with a pocketful of platitudes have bad games.
Players go from glorious highs to wish-they-were-anonymous lows. And that was Friday night in a nutshell for the Wildcats, who led 27-12 with 12 minutes left and found themselves trailing 41-27 less than 10 minutes later.
Teammate Daniel Jenkins said he’d tell Scott “not to hang his head.”
“You win some and you lose some,” Jenkins added. “But at the end of the day, he was a hell of a quarterback.”
And what does Rodriguez tell his star, the player who helped establish the first-year success few saw coming at Arizona? What does he tell the player who guided UA to relevance via season-long excellence on offense?
Rodriguez tells him the same thing he told him after huge wins against Oklahoma State, USC and Washington: He’s a stud.
“I told him in the locker room that I loved him,” said Rodriguez. “He’s had a great senior year.”