Arizona quarterback Matt Scott leads the Pac-12 in total offense, but after leaving each of the last two games with concussion symptoms, he’s listed as doubtful for this weekend’s game against Colorado.
He’s not expected to play – as of Thursday, he still wasn’t cleared – and he shouldn’t play.
Then again, the Wildcats’ handling of Scott’s concussion symptoms haven’t exactly been up to the standards many thought they should be.
Scott took a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the game against USC two weeks ago and got up vomiting – a common sign of concussions. The coach and training staff left him in the game to score a touchdown on that series, and only then did they perform a concussion test. Presumably, he failed, because he didn’t return to the game and was seen vomiting on the sidelines.
The team defended its handling of the situation, and Scott was praised for his “toughness” for continuing to play.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, who should not, under any circumstances, have allowed his quarterback to stay on that field in the situation, became so irritated with questions about Scott’s status after the game that he stopped answering them, but the quarterback told reporters last week he “didn’t think” he actually had a concussion.
The school didn’t say one way or the other, but they did announce that he had been evaluated and cleared to play in the next game.
There was no question that Scott suffered a concussion a week later at UCLA, when he was tackled and his head hit the knee of a Bruins’ defender.
He left the game in the third quarter and did not return, and he did not practice this week. According to The Denver Post, no Arizona player who has been categorized as “doubtful” this season has played in that week’s game.
While there is much that the medical community still doesn’t know about concussions, doctors agree that people are at a much higher risk for concussions after suffering the first one, which makes returning to practice or to a game especially dangerous. Scott might not have been officially diagnosed with a concussion after the USC game, but it’s very likely that he may have had one.
If Scott is on the bench – which is where he should be after back-to-back hits to the head – junior college transfer B.J. Denker will start.
Denker has played sparingly this season, but at Cerritos College, he threw for 2,319 yards and 31 touchdowns, and he rushed for 430 yards.
Dean Grosfeld, Denker’s offensive coordinator at Cerritos, told the Tucson Citizen that during Denker’s redshirt year, “He matured at a greater rate than anybody I have ever seen.”
In his first start for the Wildcats, Denker should benefit from facing a Colorado team that has just one win and is going through a quarterback transition of its own. Buffaloes’ coach Jon Embree said that either Nick Hirschman or Connor Wood will start over Jordan Webb.
With 2,848 passing yards and an average of 357.44 yards of total offense per game, Scott is fourth nationally in total offense. Denker isn’t going to usurp the starting role, no matter how well he plays, but he can help the team become bowl eligible this week. Arizona is 5-4 and will become eligible for the postseason if Denker can lead the ‘Cats to a win on Saturday.
Denker will be backed up by Richard Morrison, a wide receiver who also worked at quarterback in fall camp.