Arizona's Scott makes wait pay off

Arizona's Scott makes wait pay off

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Matt Scott entered his sophomore season as Arizona's starting quarterback, having no reason to believe it was anything but the start of three great years.

Instead, it lasted three games.

His job gone and his confidence almost shot, Scott decided to stick it out at Arizona, patiently waiting for his chance to come again.

It took more than two years, but Scott finally got it.

And, boy, did he make the most of it.

Shredding defenses with his arm and his legs, Scott developed into one of the nation's top quarterbacks his final season in the desert, securing his place in Arizona lore and possibly a spot in the NFL in a short period of time.

``Matt's played with a chip on his shoulder since we've been here and you can tell,'' said Rod Smith, Arizona's co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

``His past experiences have driven him and he told me, `coach, I'm not relinquishing anything this year, I'll to be the best we've ever had.' He worked and prepared that way.''

It just took him a while to get there.

One of the nation's top quarterback recruits out of Centennial High School in Corona, Calif., Scott played sparingly as a freshman, but emerged from spring drills and preseason camp as the starter in 2009.

He started the first three games, but was replaced by Nick Foles after struggling against Iowa.

Foles went on to start the rest of the season and the two years after that, leaving Scott to mostly fill in as an injury replacement or in mop-up duty.

He did well in two starts after Foles was injured during the 2010 season, piling up 688 yards of combined total offense in games against Washington and UCLA. Mostly, though, he waited around, watching instead of playing, his confidence still dented from being benched so early in his career.

``It was real tough,'' Scott said. ``Coming out of high school, everybody is that guy and it's real hard to take a backseat to someone else. It was a real humbling experience for me.''

Scott got his chance to show what he could really do this season.

After a redshirt season in 2011, he was the undisputed starter entering this season after Foles was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Scott turned out to be a perfect fit for new Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez's read-option offense.

An athletic 6-foot-3, Scott has a strong arm and can make every throw imaginable. He threw for 3,238 yards and 24 touchdowns, both third on Arizona's all-time single-season list.

Scott also was a dangerous runner, finishing as Arizona's second-leading rusher behind All-American Ka'Deem Carey, the FBS leader.

Scott had 3,723 total yards, second in Arizona history and seventh nationally this season, and had four of Arizona's top 10 single-game performances for total yards. Against Stanford, which has one of the nation's best defenses, he set school records by completing 45 of 69 passes and came close to another mark by throwing for 491 yards.

Not bad for a player who was mostly an unknown entity to Arizona's new coaching staff.

``Matt Scott is a stud,'' Rodriguez said earlier this season.

He's also pretty tough.

With depth issues on the offensive line, the Wildcats had a hard time protecting Scott. There were times when Arizona's coaches called fewer running plays for Scott to protect him and sometimes it didn't matter what they did.

He suffered a painful hip injury against Oregon early in the Pac-12 season, was knocked out of the game against Southern California and suffered a concussion against UCLA.

Other than the concussion, which caused him to sit out against Colorado, Scott kept getting back up, even vomiting on the field a couple of times before playing on.

``Even when we didn't run him, he took a beating,'' Smith said. ``But in college football, the quarterback is going to take a beating. But he's a tough kid. Never once did he ever want to sit out a game. He's one of those guys who just wants to play. If it's broke, he'll just cut it off and keep going.''

Now it's time for Scott to head off to his future,

Considered an average NFL prospect at the start of the season, Scott had scouts flowing to Arizona's games this season to get a look at his arm strength, decision-making and improvisational skills.

But for Scott, there's no time to think about that just yet.

He still has a final game to play.

After leading Arizona to seven wins in Rodriguez's first season, Scott will take the Wildcats to Albuquerque on Saturday night to face Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl.

No matter what happens in that game, Scott has already cemented his place in Arizona football history with a legacy that may be tough to match.

``Hopefully, they see me as one of the best quarterbacks to play here,'' Scott said. ``I only had one season to prove that, but I think we did prove a little something.''

He sure did. It just took a while to get his chance to do it.

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.