UA FOOTBALL

Arizona football: Great Scott! Cats air it out behind senior

2012-09-03T00:00:00Z Arizona football: Great Scott! Cats air it out behind seniorRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 03, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The numbers could be a fluke, a small sample size in a sport where things often change on a week-to-week basis.

Or maybe it's something more significant.

The Arizona Wildcats attempted more passes (47) than runs (41) in Saturday's 24-17, overtime win over Toledo at Arizona Stadium. Nobody will quibble with the team's 624 yards of total offense - or the season-opening victory -but the splits seem, at least outwardly, to fly in the face of first-year coach Rich Rodriguez's reputation for rushing the ball.

In fact, Saturday's pass-run numbers looked an awful lot like the Wildcats' old "Air Zona" attack.

"I didn't know how much I was going to throw, honestly, but it felt good," said quarterback Matt Scott, who completed 30 of 46 passes for 387 yards and two touchdowns. "I'm a quarterback. I want to sit back there and throw the ball. I wouldn't see myself as a runner only; I'd rather sit back there and throw the ball and run the ball (only) when I need to."

The Wildcats attempted passes on 53.4 percent of their plays in their season opener, including two of their three plays in overtime. Scott's 10-yard touchdown strike to Terrence Miller gave the UA the lead; the Wildcats' defense held when Toledo took over, and the team escaped with a win.

Though Rodriguez's offenses usually run more than they pass - it was a 60-40 split in his final season (2010) at Michigan - the coach said he doesn't care about percentages.

Rather, he trusts the quarterback to check into plays after reading the defense.

"We just react to how they're playing us," the coach said, "and mix our play calls accordingly."

Still, the statistics are strange. Consider:

• Saturday marked the most times a Rodriguez-coached team has thrown since 2001, when - in his first season at West Virginia - the coach called 52 pass plays in a loss to Maryland, and 48 in a loss to Syracuse. The Mountaineers finished just 3-8 in Rodriguez's first season. As the run-first system developed, the passing stats decreased: WVU did not attempt more than 37 passes in a game between 2002 and 2007.

• Rodriguez's three Michigan teams (2008-10) threw an average of 28.4 times per game. His quarterbacks attempted 42 passes against Ohio State in 2009, and 44 against Iowa a year later - but never as many as Scott threw Saturday night.

• Scott attempted more passes Saturday than Wolverines star Denard Robinson did in any game during two seasons (2009-10) as a starter under Rodriguez. Scott's 387 passing yards were 82 more than Robinson's season high in 2010, and 110 yards better than his second-best performance.

That's not to say that Scott and Robinson necessarily belong in the same conversation: "Shoelace" averaged 59 rushing yards per game for Michigan in 2010 and is viewed as one of the nation's top playmakers as a senior. But he's also more of a natural rusher than Scott, who spent his first four college seasons in a pass-first offense.

Scott's numbers will likely come through the air as the Wildcats adjust to their new spread-option offense. Saturday was a good start.

"He's making great decisions," Rodriguez said. "In our offense, the quarterback has to make decisions just about every play - run or pass. Matt was really sharp for his first game."

Offense aplenty

Saturday's UA offensive performance, by the numbers:

624

Yards gained in Saturday's win over Toledo, the second-best game performance in UA history. The Wildcats gained 691 yards in a 1969 win over New Mexico.

88

Plays run by the Wildcats in Saturday's win. The teams' 182 combined plays were a UA record: Arizona and rival Arizona Sate combined to run 180 plays in their 1973 rivalry game.

47

Passes attempted by the Wildcats, a 53 percent pass-to-run clip.

7.1

Yards per play gained by the UA.

461

Total yards of offense by UA quarterback Matt Scott, the third-best game showing in program history. Willie Tuitama put up 517 yards in a 2007 win at Washington, and Keith Smith put up 502 in a 1996 win at Cal.

Up next

• What: Oklahoma State at Arizona

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Pac-12 Arizona

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp)

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