Call me a contrarian. While most of the Arizona fan base is angry at blowing a 14-point second half lead and falling to Stanford 54-48 in overtime, I am going to try to look at the positives. Don’t get me wrong, I share your frustration, but I need to look at the things that went well to save my sanity.
Let’s first take care of some house keeping.
I disagree with the decision to run out the clock at the end of regulation. I think you need to take the chance. Against Oklahoma State Rich Rodriguez faced a similar situation before the half and chose to get conservative. I asked him about it and he essentuially said had the team not started the drive inside the 20, he would have been more aggressive. You also have to wonder if he wanted to put the game in the hands, err on the foot of John Bonano, in case he missed and the team needed him in overtime. Personally, on the road I go for it.
I am frustrated that for the second straight week and quarterback who has been less than stellar up to this point has a career week against Arizona. A lot of that is due to the fact that Arizona has next to know pass rush and Josh Nunes had all day to throw. He also has a 6-8 tight end to throw to against a Wildcat team that has no one in the back eight taller than 6-2. Nunes did make some big plays, but the Wildcats also gave him some opportunities.
Now let’s move on to the positives.
Matt Scott was sensational. He was 45-69 on the day. That’s a 65% completion percentage. Add to that, he had at least seven drops. He could have completed over 75% of his passes had some guys hung on to the ball. Now I will concede that he was throwing high for much of the game. Some of that was due to defensive pressure not letting him follow through and I’m pretty sure his hip is hurting him, affecting his throwing motion. That being said, a few passes just sailed on him, including the key one on third and long late in the game that might have sealed things.
Update After watching the Giants' game on Sunday I realized that Eli Manning throws high frequently as well. Part of the reason is that Manning has tall receivers and by throwing high on the outside routes, he gives them a chance for his receivers to go up and get the ball, and prevents defensive backs from making a play. On those outside routes it is better to over throws than under throw. A ball thrown right at the body can be picked off and taken to the house. Now, Scott has to do a MUCH better job not leaving his receivers out to dry on the high ball, throwing them over the middle is murder. The drawback is balls do tend to get away from you as well, which is what happened on the third down attempt to Slavin. [/b]update over[/b]
He also threw for 491 yards and scored 48 points against a Stanford team that had not given up more than 17 points all year and had only given up 61 points all year coming into the contest. That’s right, the Wildcats, led by Scott, scored 13 points less than San Jose State, Duke, USC and Washington COMBINED.
Scott also showed his toughness. He came in injured, he hurt his hip against Oregon and dinged his ankle against Oregon State and the Cardinal punished him again today. He took hit after hit, yet hung in the pocket and made plays. He was visibly grimacing after a big hit in the third quarter.
“I think Matt Scott is a stud,” Rodriguez said on his postgame radio interview. “He’s an absolute stud.”
Ka’Deem Carey may have had his best game as a Wildcat. He was more consistent from start to finish that he had been in the past. In most games he did his damage in the second half, but he started getting hot early on and rushed for 132 yards against a Stanford team that was giving up just 64.8 yards a carry.
Carry scored three times, in a variety of ways. He ran hard up the middle, showed speed on another run, and found a hole on a third.
The receivers were mostly good. Austin Hill is quietly becoming one of the best wideouts in the Pac-12. His versatility is outstanding. He has the speed to go deep, size to catch underneath and is becoming a great route runner.
Hill had 11 catches for 165 yards and two scores.
For a stretch of the game Dan Buckner seemed unstoppable. He had eight catches for 81 yards and his two best grabs may have been on passes that were ruled out of bounds. He used his size and speed as effectively as he has in his Wildcat career. Their was a costly drop on a slant pass that would have gone for a score, but I am trying to focus on the positive.
Johnny Jackson seems to have completely leaped Richard Morrison on the depth chart. He has seen his playing time increase every time out, but this weekend he looked like the player we saw in the spring game. He had 10 grabs for 75 yards and took some big pops from the Stanford defense.