Matt Scott was feeling it in Saturday’s game against South Carolina State.
The senior quarterback was at the helm for 42 of the Wildcats’ 56 points in the shutout victory, and finished with 288 passing yards and three touchdowns along with 61 yards on the ground and a score.
He went 30-for-36 through the air, and completed his last 13 passes of the game before he was pulled for backup B.J. Denker at the start of the fourth quarter.
After the game, Scott said he didn’t realize how many passes he was completing, but he still believes he can do better.
“I didn’t know my numbers were like that,” Scott said. “I thought I missed a few passes here and there that I could’ve easily hit. I can do better.”
Rodriguez was impressed, although he still believes Scott is a work in progress.
“He was pretty sharp,,” Rodriguez said. “I think he missed one deep ball. Those are the things, in order to beat a team like we have coming up [in Oregon] those big play shots that we had … we’ve gotta hit.
“Every week you can see that he’s hungry to prove himself,” Rodriguez added. “Even though he had three pretty good weeks, he’ll be hungry this weekend … Matt’s still learning, he’s only three games into playing the new system. There’s still some things he can get better at.”
Through three games, Scott has thrown for 995 yards and has 190 rushing yards.
‘Vanilla Vick’ gets his shot
B.J. Denker, the Wildcats’ top backup quarterback, calls himself Vanilla Vick because he has attributes — athleticism, left-handedness, small stature — similar to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mike Vick.
On Saturday, Denker finally had his chance to show the public what he had, as a 42-0 lead entering the fourth quarter became an opportunity for backups to see the field.
While he didn’t quite live up to the aforementioned moniker, Denker had a solid night going 6-of-10 with 78 yards and a touchdown in one quarter of action.
It was Denker’s first Division I football experience after playing in the junior college level at Cerritos College in California.
“It felt good,” Denker said. “I haven’t played in a live atmosphere, I haven’t got hit since my last season at [Cerritos]. It definitely helps [with confidence]. It helps with the crowd getting rowdy, to play in front of thousands of people. I’m not used to that.”
For the Wildcats, Denker is next in line at the off-chance of a Matt Scott injury, so Rodriguez felt it was important to get Denker some time on the field against the Bulldogs.
“BJ’s practiced pretty well,” Rodriguez said. “We needed to get him some experience. I thought he saw the field pretty well for his first time out there. “
In fall camp, the Wildcats’ lack of depth on defense forced Rodriguez to bring some offensive players to the defensive side of the ball, most notably fullback Taimi Tutogi.
Now, it’s the other way around.
Against South Carolina State, Rodriguez debuted a couple of defensive players on offense.
Jowyn Ward, formerly a defensive lineman, was permanently moved to the offensive line two weeks ago.
I moved Jo about 2 weeks ago,” Rodriguez said. “I wish I would’ve moved him in spring. I think he would have been in the mix. At the time we were still looking for guys defensively, but he’s clearly a second team guard.”
In 19 career games on the defensive line, including three starts, Ward recorded 11 tackles, 1.5 for loss, one sack and one fumble recovery.
Senior center Kyle Quinn is happy to have Ward on his side of the ball.
“He was having fun out there,” Quinn said. “He was a little nervous at first but he’s a natural lineman.
“He’s done a great job for two weeks but he got out there and got playing time … finding and hitting anything that moves. He’s a big, strong kid. It’s fun to see him play.”
Dame Ndiaye, formerly a defensive end, was moved to tight end in practice last week and the redshirt freshman saw the first game action of his career against South Carolina State.
“I don’t even know if he knew how to get in his stance,” Rodriguez joked. “He didn’t jump offsides, but I’ll have to see the film if he blocked anybody.”