NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
The first bowl game of the bowl season turned out to be a last-minute thriller, as the Arizona Wildcats made up a 13-point deficit by scoring 14 points in the game’s final 42 seconds — with an onside kick in between — to win an offensive shootout 49-48 over the Nevada Wolfpack in the New Mexico Bowl.
This exciting college football game, which served as both a culmination to Arizona and Nevada’s seasons as well as a kick-off to the bowl season, also featured numerous 2013 NFL draft prospects on each side:
Nevada SS Duke Williams:
– Consistently does a good job coming in from deep coverage to make hits and finish tackles on runs and screen passes
– Unable to turn toward football in coverage against Austin Hill, gives up 28-yard completion over top
– BIG PLAY: Trails right behind receiver going over middle, breaks in front for leaping interception as pass comes in, runs back approximately 20-25 yards on return
– CRUCIAL LATE-GAME MISTAKES: Called for pass interference away from intended target in end zone on would-be incompletion; fails to recover onside kick that comes directly at him
Overview: The best draft prospect in the game on either team, Williams had a mostly quiet game until the fourth quarter, when he had some big moments, both positive and negative. He was beaten a couple times in coverage, but showed his deep coverage ability with a textbook interception. His big play, however, is overshadowed by his late-game mistakes, which played a big part in costing Nevada this game.
Arizona QB Matt Scott:
– Inconsistent accuracy when scrambling: can throw accurately on the run, but usually fails to set his feet, which results in missed throws too often
– Good runner: good speed and burst out of the backfield, physical runner who takes on hits head-on and falls forward through defenders
– Outstanding accuracy on 21-yard back-shoulder completion up sideline into tight one-on-one coverage where only his receiver can make play
– With free rusher coming toward him, perfect 30-yard throw complete over coverage
– Had a full 4 seconds in the pocket, ended up running right for loss of yards; has tendency to roll out of the pocket to right side of the field when his initial reads are covered
– INTERCEPTION: Scrambled right and had plenty of room to run up sideline, makes terrible decision to throw back across his body into coverage, didn’t set his feet
– Missed in front of Austin Hill on screen pass
– Exceptional touchdown pass: clean footwork on 5-step drop, plenty of time to launch ball, very accurate deep ball 49 yards through air complete to Hill, ends up as 63-yard TD
– INTERCEPTION: Lofted deep ball over middle from off back foot, allowing defender to make play
– Wide receiver had his man beat up right sideline for easy completion and potential 90-yard touchdown, Scott misses long
– Misses receiver high off 3-step drop
– 3-step drop, pump fake, rolls right, sets feet then throws deep to draw pass interference along right sideline, very good progression leads to defensive penalty
– Very risky throw rolling right without setting feet into double coverage, but throws pass perfectly accurate into tight window for first-down completion
– GAME-WINNING DRIVE: Perfect 35-yard throw from over the middle for big completion to start drive; another perfect throw off 3-step drop, 24 yards through air complete to right sideline; 10-yard slant off no drop complete to Miller in end zone for touchdown
– Complete 27-of-45 passes, but would only have 23-of-45 without four circus catches from receivers
Overview: Matt Scott made a few crucial mistakes and had inconsistent accuracy and footwork over the course of the game, but at the end of the game, he made himself some money. Scott needed to make three throws to lead Arizona’s game-winning touchdown drive, and he was perfect on all three of them. Scott should have already had the attention of scouts as an athletic pocket passer with a good arm, but he showed in this game that he is also clutch.
Arizona WR Dan Buckner:
– Runs smooth 5-yard curl then looks pass directly into his hands for a clean catch
– Mental gaffes: false start to begin second drive, block in back on kickoff return
– Great adjustment to underthrow to make 21-yard catch behind him up right sideline
– No catches after first drive of second quarter
Overview: In a game where Scott completed 27 passes, only two of those were to Buckner. His 21-yard catch was impressive, but he also drew two frustrating penalties. Buckner didn’t make an impression that would change his status as likely going undrafted.
Nevada RB Stefphon Jefferson (Jr.):
– Does a very good job following his blockers, using vision to find hole
– Has distinct second gear of speed once he accelerates
– Picks up blitz with cut block, giving quarterback room to run for positive yardage
– Good lead blocker when Fajardo runs out of option, consistently picks up a man when his quarterback runs
– Keeps legs moving forward through contact
– Moves feet well between blockers to find holes running between the tackles
– FUMBLED three times; recovered
– Was taken out of game for two full drives, then came out of game again after third fumble
Overview: Jefferson looked good in running for 164 yards and two touchdowns, but unfortunately, the positives of his day were ruined by his three fumbles. Ball security now appears to be a serious red flags for Jefferson, and it made his coach lose faith in him late in the game. If he was considering declaring early for the 2013 NFL draft, he should reconsider so he can fix this issue in his senior year.
Nevada CB Khalid Wooten:
– Missed tackle in space
– Plays too far back, give David Richards inside position to make easy catch on post to the goal line
– Tight coverage behind Richards, breaks in as pass comes his way to force incompletion on short slant
– Great job to stay in front of Richards on short curl at sticks, tackle him immediately short of converting 3rd & 5
– Perfect coverage on 48-yard deep ball to end zone, trails just behind Richards then gets right in angle of throw and swats pass down for PBU
– Weaves between a few defenders for punt return nearly 15 yards
Overview: Wooten was beaten on a couple plays, but made a few plays of his own as well and was easily the strongest link of Nevada’s secondary on Saturday. He didn’t earn himself a spot in the draft, but he still has a shot at being a late-round choice.
Nevada ILB Albert Rosette:
– Holds gap well in the middle to make tackle, but allows Carey to run through him for a couple additional yards
– Rather than wrapping up Matt Scott, tries to take him down with a hit, misses and Scott runs through him to convert 4th & 3
– Perfectly-timed leap at line of scrimmage shuts down Ka’Deem Carey as he attempts to jump over line on goal-line run
– Knew where first-down marker was, sheds blocker and stayed on the line to make stop, but allows Carey to stretch for first down
– Lack of speed shows on Carey toss to the sideline
– Good pass-rush pursuit of Scott, sees Scott scrambling right and mirrors him along the line of scrimmage, closes in on him and forces him to throw ball away
– Strong when run plays comes at him: disciplined, fills gap, holds his position well; struggles when he has to track down runner
Overview: Rosette is a solid run-stopper, but he lacks athleticism and isn’t a difference-maker. He should earn a training camp invite as an undrafted free agent, but it is unlikely he’ll be selected.
Nevada TE Zach Sudfeld:
– Beats defense, left wide open for 17-yard touchdown, looks natural on turn to make catch, shows soft hands
– From 3-point stance on line, perfect wheel route to the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown catch, very natural stride, extends going into end zone to make catch; scored on two straight plays from scrimmage
– Good lead block from H-Back spot helps Stephfon Jefferson to 2nd & 4 conversion
Overview: For a brief moment in the game, Zach Sudfeld stole the spotlight, making touchdown receptions on consecutive plays. He is an athletic tight end who can make a plays as a receiver. He was fairly quiet for the rest of the game; he had a decent day as a blocker, but doesn’t blow anyone up blocking even with great size.