Arizona quarterback Matt Scott was a force to be reckoned with on Saturday afternoon at Wildcats’ stadium.
There was no stopping the fifth-year senior, who found a way to score even after suffering a concussion late in the fourth quarter. Scott’s gutsy performance resulted in some big numbers to include three passing touchdowns on 369 yards in the air, and a career-best 100 yards rushing.
But the most impressive number to come from Scott’s charge was the 39-36 underdog victory over the 10th-ranked Trojans.
The first of Scott’s touchdown passes came midway through the first quarter when he connected with wide receiver Johnny Jackson for an eight-yard score to cap off a 60-yard drive.
But as the Wildcats cooled down offensively – their scoring limited to two field goals until late in the third quarter – the Trojans caught a rhythm.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Marqise Lee had a lot to do with that, both going into the record books for their offensive numbers on Saturday.
Barkley managed 493 yards passing, marking his third 400-yard game, and tying the USC school record. The feat came with three touchdown passes on 31 of 49 passing.
Lee was just as big a thorn in the side of Wildcat fans, as he finished the day with 16 catches on 345 yards and two touchdowns, good enough for the PAC-12 record in receiving yards. A couple of big kickoff returns left Lee with 469 total yards.
“He’s probably the best player I’ve ever played against,” said linebacker and former Ironwood Ridge player Jake Fischer about Lee’s performance.
But, with the Wildcats trailing 28-13 in the third, it appeared the only numbers Scott was concerned with were the ones on the scoreboard.
Scott put the Wildcats back in the game, rushing for a 10-yard touchdown and then finding wide receiver Dan Buckner for a nine-yard score to put the Wildcats within two.
Former Canyon Del Oro High School star Ka’Deem Carey struck early in the fourth quarter, closing out a seven-play, 72-yard drive with a seven-yard rushing touchdown to put the Wildcats on top, 32-28.
Carey’s touchdown went with 28 carries on 121 yards rushing.
The Arizona defense limited the next Trojan drive to just three plays, capped off with a sack by Reggie Gilbert.
Jonathan McKnight led the Wildcat defense with 11 tackles.
Carey and Scott would team up again in their next offensive drive to once more bring Arizona to the USC seven-yard line, where Scott narrowly found receiver David Richards in the end zone to give the Wildcats an 11-point buffer with 5:36 remaining.
And it was for that amount of time that Arizona fans were holding their breath. Scott’s concussion, the result of a knee to the helmet, had him sidelined, and the Trojans didn’t appear to be quitting.
USC scored on its next drive, after Silas Redd rushed for a 10-yard touchdown, and Barkley connected with Lee for the two-point conversion to bring the game within three.
The Wildcats kept the ball on the ground in their next drive, which was an unsuccessful one, as they were forced to punt when a penalty pushed them to fourth and 12.
On their own 13-yard line, Barkley connected with Redd and Lee for an accumulative 39 yards to put the Trojans on the Arizona 48-yard line with five seconds remaining. With time winding down, Barkley found space to throw.
“I’m holding my breath,” Head Coach Rich Rodriguez said about the final pass.
When the heave was batted down in the end zone, Rodriguez and company could finally breathe. The Wildcats had pulled it off.
“I do think it makes us more relevant,” Rodriguez said of the win in the press conference. “It should. It doesn’t make us a top-10 team; we’ve lost three games. But it hopefully gives our guys confidence. Hopefully, it makes recruits sit up and notice.”
As for Scott, who was named Walter Camp Player of the Week, Rodriguez is optimistic.
“He told me in there he was good,” said Rodriguez. “Doctors are taking every precaution, which they should.”
The Wildcats (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) will next face UCLA on Saturday, Nov. 3.