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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona Wildcats football guide: Waiting game pays off for Matt Scott

Larry Hogan/Arizona Daily Wildcat Quarterback Matt Scott, No. 10, practices with the rest of the UA football team earlier this summer.

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When senior quarterback Matt Scott speaks, there’s a clear resolve in his voice.

Experiencing three offensive coordinators in four years, two head coaches and an injury, a lost starting job and a forced redshirt will do that to a person.

Not everyone has always believed in Scott. He said when former head coach Mike Stoops brought Scott to the UA, he thought Stoops believed in him. But, he had his starting job taken away by Nick Foles. Now, in a new coaching regime, Rich Rodriguez believes in Matt Scott. At the Pac-12 Media Day in July, Rodriguez made it clear how happy he was to have Scott as his signal caller.

“We’re fortunate he’s here with us,” Rodriguez said. “That’s the best decision the last coaching staff made.”

After fighting through four seasons worth of adversity, Scott is finally where he thought he’d be three seasons ago as a high school student visiting the UA — the starting quarterback for the Arizona Wildcats.

“We liked Tucson; he loved it,” Rob Scott, Matt Scott’s father, said. “He liked that staff. He liked the college town feel. He felt that it was far away from home, but not too far away. It was a great decision at the time.”

But like any competitor, especially one that was responsible for 3,578 total yards of offense and 32 total touchdowns his senior year, Scott expected to see playing time after his freshman season, as the Willie Tuitama era came to a close for the Wildcats.

Scott said he honestly believed he would be the starting quarterback in 2009. “Not my freshman year, because Willie was here,” he said. “But after that, I expected it to be my show. That’s what I was told.”

So Scott was penciled in as Arizona’s starter heading into his sophomore year in 2009, but Nick Foles, a 6-foot-5, 243-pound transfer from Michigan State joined in to make a play at winning the starting quarterback job, a competition that did not end in fall camp and veered into the regular season.

Scott started the first two games of 2009 for the Wildcats, but split time with Foles, who eventually won the job permanently against Iowa, when Scott was pulled after three quarters of play, trailing 17-10 after throwing for 50 yards and an interception.
Foles promptly threw for 55 yards and a touchdown, permanently winning the job and sending Scott to the bench for the better part of two seasons.

An injured Scott returned to the bench and watched as Foles led the Wildcats to the 2009 Holiday Bowl and a 33-0 blowout at the hands of Ndamukong Suh and Nebraska.

Scott was back on the field for three games in the middle of 2010, taking over for an injured Foles.

Scott turned in two of the best performances his father said he has ever seen in relief of an injured Foles against Washington and UCLA.

Scott threw for 691 yards and three touchdowns in three victories against the Huskies, Bruins and Cougars. When Scott entered his first game against Washington State, his father said he didn’t even believe it.

“We have a TV in the coaches’ office, and the coach goes, ‘Hey, Matt’s in,’” Rob Scott said. “And I said, ‘Stop messing around.’ He said he was serious and that Nick got hurt, and I still didn’t believe him.”

Scott was running out of time to make his mark on the college game, as the offensive coordinator that recruited him, Sonny Dykes, departed Arizona to take the head coaching job at Louisiana Tech.

“I was kind of thinking when Sonny Dykes left, that’s when we were going to get an entirely new offense,” Scott said. “We kind of switched up from there and then everybody left.”

After his pair of roller coaster seasons as a sophomore and junior, Scott watched idly as Foles led the Wildcats to their third consecutive bowl game and another lopsided loss to a Big 12 opponent, falling to Oklahoma State 36-10 in the Alamo Bowl, a game Scott believes he deserved to play in.

“In the Alamo, I was ready to play,” Scott said. “I was waiting for him [Stoops] to call on me. After two and three interceptions, I was thinking “Can I get a couple throws? Maybe one pass?”

Scott was not called upon to play despite a three-interception performance from Foles. After the loss, Scott and his family seriously considered transferring, in an effort to salvage what eligibility and potential playing time Scott had left.

“Every parent sees their kids go through stuff,” Rob Scott said. “They’re sad, then happy and happy then sad. You want the best for your kid.”

Scott and his family put a relocation plan into effect, with help from Matt Logan, Scott’s high school coach.

“Every kid wants an opportunity to play and we weren’t sure it was going to happen,” Logan said. “I would have done whatever he wanted to do. If he needed help transferring, I would help take care of that.”

One or two schools contacted Logan with interest in Scott, but he decided against leaving to finish what he started at Arizona.

“[My parents] said ‘We want you to leave,’” Scott said. “I said ‘No.’ After the Holiday Bowl and the Alamo Bowl they were like, ‘You have to get out of there.’ But I committed to Arizona for a reason, so I felt like that was the place for me, even now I still do. I don’t regret not leaving.”

Last year, the Arizona coaching staff decided to redshirt Scott, essentially relegating him to scout team duties.

Scott took his demotion hard, slacking off in game week preparation
as the Wildcats and Foles suffered through a 4-8 campaign.

“I wasn’t preparing myself like I should have been,” Scott said. “Everything really: film, study, just knowing where to throw the ball, everything. It all came down on me pretty hard I guess.”

Although they were teammates, Foles and Scott were competitors, and losing the competition made Scott harbor some ill will toward Foles.

“It’s kind of like a Tim Tebow situation I guess,” Scott said of Foles. “Everybody likes the guy, it’s hard to hate the guy. But, he was obviously my enemy and who I was competing against. Still, even when he made mistakes I was on the sideline trying to be there for him, saying, “let’s go get the next one. Let’s go get this next touchdown, don’t worry about that. Let it go.’”

Stoops was fired during the 2011 season, and Foles has since been drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. Finally, it seems, Scott’s time has come, thanks to an offensive system designed by Rodriguez, similar to what Scott ran with success in high school when he was at his happiest playing football.

“There’s not a whole lot to think about — where do I signal him, what do I tell the O-line,” Scott said. “It’s just so much simpler. When you simplify it, you can really go out and play the game without thinking too much.”

As luck would have it, his third offensive system in four seasons is one in which Scott feels most comfortable in, at a school where he has grown to love after considering leaving.

“I think there’s something pretty good you can say about a guy who makes a decision and sticks with it,” Rob Scott said. “There’s plenty of people in the world today who make decisions that don’t quite work out so they quit. Matt is going to create havoc, just wait and see.”

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