Blow to the head not enough to stop Matt Scott in upset of USC
Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Mike Stoops was often criticized as Arizona’s head coach, but one of his decisions as the former UA head coach is paying huge dividends for Rich Rodriguez and this year’s Wildcats.
Before the disastrous 2011 season that cost Stoops his job, he redshirted quarterback Matt Scott since Nick Foles was already in tow.
After Arizona’s 39-36 win against then — No. 10 USC, Scott proved once and for all that he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Foles, the UA’s all-time passing leader.
Scott completed 27-of-50 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns, plus 100 yards and touchdown on the ground.
His last touchdown, a 7-yard pass to receiver David Richards, was the one Rodriguez said he felt won the game for the Wildcats. What happened a few plays prior to that, though, gave the Arizona fan base a bit of a scare.
Here’s a look at what happened before, during and after that play.
Leading up to the hit
It was an ugly game, from start to finish, but before Scott received the jarring hit in the Wildcats’ second-to-last offensive series, Scott was proving that he should be mentioned in the same discussion as USC’s Matt Barkley, the pre-season Heisman frontrunner and All-time Pac-12 leader in touchdown passes.
Scott had 355 passing yards and two touchdowns, plus 83 rushing yards entering that drive.
The drive began at the USC 49-yard line after a USC punt, with 9:30 left in the fourth quarter and Arizona leading 32-28.
After three rushes from Scott, one from running back Ka’Deem Carey and a 7-yard pass to Richards, the Wildcats were at the 27-yard line.
Scott hiked the ball, took it himself and ran for a sliding first down. As he began his slide, Trojans linebacker Dion Bailey’s helmet struck the back of Scott’s head on an attempted tackle, then safety T.J. McDonald dove headfirst at Scott’s head from his front side, leading to a 15-yard penalty.
As the Wildcats readied to take control at the 9-yard line, Scott walked over to the 28-yard line, and began vomiting.
“From my vantage point, whatever he had for breakfast is no longer in him,” Rodriguez said. “It’s all at about the 20-yard line.”
Announcers called for him to be taken out of the game immediately because of the risk involved for someone who may have suffered a concussion. But, after a timeout, Scott walked back onto the field and the handed the ball off to Carey. After burning the Wildcats third, and final, timeout, Scott still wasn’t removed from the game. He ran the ball himself, losing a yard.
Then Scott pulled himself up and provided what Rodriguez considered the nail in the coffin for USC, finding Richards on a slant and giving the UA a commanding 39-28 lead.
“He looked pretty good on that throw,” Rodriguez said. “So, holy cow he threw it to the right guy and made a heck of a throw. He might have been a little foggy at the time.
That was a phenomenal throw. It won the game for us.”
Scott wouldn’t return to the game after that scoring drive, and backup B.J. Denker took his place on the final offensive drive for the Wildcats. Rodriguez made it easy on Denker, choosing to hand the ball off to Carey seven times before punting it back to USC and eventually sealing the victory on defense.
Still, Rodriguez and a few offensive players didn’t seem too concerned about Scott’s health after the game.
“He just told me in there he was good, I said ‘Did you tell the doctors that?’” Rodriguez said. “Doctors are taking every precaution, which they should.”
“Seeing your quarterback get hit is not a good feeling, especially on the O-line,” added starting center Addison Bachman. “He stands up every time so it’s hard to tell if he’s hurt or if he’s not. I talked to him. He’s good to go.”
It’s unclear if the UA will be penalized for its handling of the situation.
According to Forbes magazine, NCAA guidelines state that when it comes to potential concussions, “Take [an athlete] out of play immediately and allow adequate time for evaluation by a health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion.”
It also states to not allow the athlete to “shake it off”, that they need to be evaluated immediately by an appropriate health care professional and to only allow them to return to play with permission from a health care professional with experience evaluating for concussions.
Receiver Austin Hill said he wasn’t too concerned.
“I tried to talk to him on the field that drive but I wasn’t really sure what was going on,” Hill said. “I was trying to talk to him but he wasn’t really responding. I felt that Matt sometimes gets into his zone, I didn’t think it was that serious.”