UA fifth-year senior Chris Merrill, center, has made just 10 tackles in his career but is expected to play significant snaps in Saturday's opener.


PASADENA, Calif. - Perhaps the best assessment of Matt Scott's performance in Saturday's 29-21 win over UCLA came from Nick Foles, who, upon exiting the locker room, made a beeline for Scott's parents and brother.

"He did great," Foles told them, smiling.

That's for sure.

In two games as the Arizona Wildcats spot starter, Scott completed 42 of 58 passes for 552 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 19 times for 136 yards.

Most importantly, he went 2-0 - leading the 13th-ranked Wildcats to victories over Washington and UCLA after being inserted in the second quarter of an Oct. 16 win over Washington State.

Despite his stellar stewardship, Scott's days as a starter are probably over.

Coach Mike Stoops said Saturday that Foles, who has been out since suffering a dislocated right kneecap two weeks ago, will regain his starting spot this week against Stanford if he is healthy enough to play. Foles warmed up in the fourth quarter Saturday, and likely would have run the two-minute offense had UCLA taken a late lead.

"We'll see how it goes next week," Foles said. "I can't really speed (the recovery) up if it don't wanna speed up."

Scott could still play a few series per game, depending on matchups. It's a luxury the Wildcats have rarely enjoyed.

"A lot of teams don't really have basically two options who they can start at quarterback," Scott said. "I think that's real important with any team. I feel like our quarterback position has really improved."

Here's how the Wildcats were different, and some say better, with Scott starting:

1. Run game. Arizona's coaches retooled the spread offense with Scott behind center, adding more lead-option and designed-run plays to take advantage of his mobility. As a result, a long-dormant run game emerged. Arizona rushed an average of 47.5 times per game with Scott starting, a 17 rushes-per-game increase over its previous six outings. The Wildcats more than doubled their rushing output, from 120.6 yards per game to 254.5. Their run-to-pass yardage ratio under Scott was almost exactly 50-50.

Co-offensive coordinator Seth Littrell said the Wildcats have "obviously done some good things the last couple weeks," though back-to-back wins over struggling teams is an admittedly small sample size.

"Matt's done a good job the last couple weeks," he said.

2. Clock control. Lost in the fourth-quarter drama Saturday was that Arizona, for the second consecutive game, owned the time-of-possession battle. The UA held the ball for 37 minutes 55 seconds - nearly two-thirds of the game - and ran 88 plays, 33 more than the Bruins. The defense rested most of the game and was fresh for UCLA's fourth-quarter surge. Bolstered by Shaquille Richardson's diving deflection and a fumble recovery by Sione Tuihalamaka, the Wildcats held the Bruins scoreless on their final four possessions. The Cats allowed just 35 points in Scott's two starts.

"Our defense has stepped up when we needed to," linebacker Derek Earls said.

3. Avoiding pressure. Scott's escapability kept defenses from teeing off on the quarterback, as Washington State did before Foles got hurt. UCLA sacked Scott just once on Saturday; using a speed burst that made him a highly touted high school player, Scott repeatedly extended the Wildcats drives with big runs. Five of his 12 rushes went for first downs; three of his runs for first downs came on third-and-short or third-and-medium plays.

"They came with a lot of pressure," Stoops said. "He did a good job running. Matt continues to improve. We knew we could win with Matt."

Though Foles laughed off the idea of running more once he returns - "I can't quite do what he does. Matt does a great job of doing that," he said - it's clear the Wildcats have options.

Scott's two-week term as starter made the team diverse - and dangerous.

"To be a great team, you have to have depth at every position," Foles said. "Matt's showing just how confident he is."

A different look

The Arizona Wildcats offense changed for the better when Matt Scott took over as starter on Oct. 23. Here's a look at the stats:

Statistical category / Nick Foles' starts / Matt Scott's starts

Points per game 31.3 36.5

Rushes per game 30.5 47.5

Rushing yards per game 120.6 254.5

Rushing TDs per game 2 3

Passes per game 38 29

Completions per game 28.3 21

Passing yards per game 308.8 276

Passing TDs per game 1.8 1.5

First downs per game 22 27.5

Sacks allowed per game 2.8 1.5

Average time of possession: 29:16 34:35

Record 5-1 2-0

Up next

• What: Arizona at Stanford

• When: 5 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Channel 9

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM


With first-place votes in parentheses, records through Oct. 30 and previous ranking.

1. Oregon (49) 8-0 1

2. Boise St. (7) 7-0 2

3. Auburn (2) 9-0 3

4. TCU (2) 9-0 4

5. Alabama 7-1 6

6. Utah 8-0 8

7. Wisconsin 7-1 9

8. Ohio St. 8-1 10

9. Nebraska 7-1 14

10. Stanford 7-1 13

11. Oklahoma 7-1 11

12. LSU 7-1 12

13. Arizona 7-1 15

14. Missouri 7-1 7

15. Iowa 6-2 18

16. Michigan St. 8-1 5

17. Arkansas 6-2 19

18. South Carolina 6-2 17

19. Oklahoma St. 7-1 20

20. Virginia Tech 6-2 21

21. Mississippi St. 7-2 23

22. Baylor 7-2 25

23. N.C. State 6-2 -

24. Florida St. 6-2 16

25. Nevada 7-1 -

Others receiving votes: Hawaii 50, Syracuse 22, Oregon St. 16, Maryland 11, Southern Cal 10, San Diego St. 9, Illinois 8, UCF 5, Pittsburgh 4, Miami 3, Northwestern 3, Florida 2, N. Illinois 1.