Arizona Football: Scott's run of success lifts Cats

'Matt up the middle' plays help senior to a career day on ground
2012-11-01T00:00:00Z 2014-08-07T17:52:14Z Arizona Football: Scott's run of success lifts CatsRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 01, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Arizona's play calls are complicated - a series of assignments and words signalled in by three flailing sets of hands on the sidelines.

Saturday, something simpler - "Matt up the middle" - seemed to work just fine.

Quarterback Matt Scott ran 15 times for exactly 100 yards in last weekend's 39-36 win over USC at Arizona Stadium. Six of his runs - and 25 of Scott's rushing yards - came in the fourth quarter, when the senior led the Wildcats to a pair of touchdowns before being knocked from the game.

Most of Scott's rushing attempts went right up the middle, at the Trojans' empty - and weak - underbelly.

"It was working great," Scott said. "It was an easy six or seven yards every time we ran the ball."

Saturday's strategy marked a change from the norm: Scott ran just 23 times total in the Wildcats' first four conference games before rushing 15 times Saturday. He more than doubled his rushing totals in Pac-12 play with the 100-yard performance.

"We did some formation things, and there were some openings there," first-year coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Matt ran the ball pretty well. … They're so big and physical and athletic that we had to try to do a few new things that we hadn't done before."

Here's a look at Scott's big day, what changed and what to expect when the Wildcats (5-3 overall, 2-3 Pac-12) travel to No. 25 UCLA this week:

When they did it: Twelve of Scott's 15 carries came on either first or second down, and the latter accounting for eight of his touches. Scott opted to run on two third downs and one fourth down; all three times, the speedy senior was able to gain positive yards.

Eight of Scott's 15 runs resulted in first downs; one of them, a 10-yard dash on first-and-goal, went for a touchdown.

The up-the-middle dive plays were something new for Scott, who has spent most of the season running read-option plays, and - depending on the call - either handing off or running off-tackle. The Cats' quarterback guessed that he had run "maybe one or two" up-the-middle plays before Saturday.

One, an 8-yard touchdown run against Oklahoma State in Week 2, helped spark an upset.

What he saw: Many of Scott's runs came after USC "emptied the box," clearing out all three linebackers to help in pass coverage. The resulting matchup was favorable to the UA, which used five linemen and often a running back - Ka'Deem Carey - to block for Scott's runs up the middle.

"Shoot, we got five - and if my math is right, that means we've got one more," quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said with a chuckle. "Matt did a great job of seeing it and taking it."

Said Carey: "We switched. I played fullback and he played running back. I gave him the holes and he was hitting them."

Why it worked: Simple. The Wildcats had more blockers than USC had defenders, and the fearless Scott wouldn't be stopped. The Cats' quarterback elicited some aaahs when, in the fourth quarter, he attempted to hurdle Trojans safety Jawanza Starling at the end of a seven-yard run. (He nearly made it.)

Scott battled the Trojans' physical defense. Twice, USC was called for late-hit penalties on Scott at the end of runs. The second call came when Trojans safety T.J. McDonald drilled Scott with a helmet-to-helmet hit. Scott got sick on the field shortly thereafter, leading to three days' worth of speculation about whether he suffered a concussion.

Scott, and the Wildcats trainers, insist that he's fine heading into a critical game. "Matt up the middle" could be a new staple to the UA's dynamic offense.

"He's a fearless guy," Smith said. "He's not afraid to run the football."

On StarNet: Chat with Ryan Finley about college football at noon today at

Carrying the load

Of Matt Scott's 15 carries Saturday,

• 8 came on first down

• 4 came on second down

• 2 came on third down

• 1 came on fourth down

• 8 went for first downs

• 1 went for a touchdown

Up next

• Who: No. 24 Arizona (5-3, 2-3) at No. 25 UCLA (6-2, 3-2)

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Pac-12 Network

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

The running man

Arizona Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott set career highs in rushing attempts and rushing yards in Saturday's win over Southern Cal. Here's how the numbers break down:

• First quarter: 2 carries, 8 yards

• Second quarter: 4 carries, 45 yards

• Third quarter: 3 carries, 22 yards

• Fourth quarter: 6 carries, 25 yards

• Total: 15 carries, 100 yards

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Pac-12 South football standings

  Conference Overall
Arizona 7 2 0 0.778 10 3 0 0.769
USC 6 3 0 0.667 8 4 0 0.667
UCLA 6 3 0 0.667 9 3 0 0.750
Arizona State 6 3 0 0.667 9 3 0 0.750
Utah 5 4 0 0.556 9 4 0 0.692
Colorado 0 9 0 0.000 2 10 0 0.167

Pac-12 North football standings

  Conference Overall
Oregon 8 1 0 0.889 12 1 0 0.923
Stanford 5 4 0 0.556 7 5 0 0.583
Washington 4 5 0 0.444 8 5 0 0.615
Cal 3 6 0 0.333 5 7 0 0.417
Washington State 2 7 0 0.222 3 9 0 0.250
Oregon State 2 7 0 0.222 5 7 0 0.417
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