Farnsworth: Why Savon Scarver Is The Most Feared Player In The Mountain West
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – The skies were clear, there was a slight breeze and it was 58 degrees on a cool evening in Tucson, Arizona. It was December 29, 2017 and the Utah State Aggies were going bowling for the fourth time in five seasons under head coach Matt Wells. It was on that night at the Arizona Bowl against New Mexico State that an Aggies legend was born.
It was New Mexico State’s first kickoff of the game after an opening drive field goal. Dylan Brown sent the ensuing kick high into the air where freshman wide receiver Savon Scarver was waiting for it.
Scarver drifted to his right, near the New Mexico State sideline pulling the kick in at the four-yard line. He showed eye popping instant acceleration sliding past defenders, evading a weak tackle attempt by the kicker, another pursuer slid off his back and by the time linebacker Will Clement dove for him at the 17-yard line Scarver still had three yards of separation on his way to breaking the tape for a 96 yard touchdown return. The first electric return of Scarver’s record breaking career.
“Scary. He’s a weapon,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said about what its lining up the kick team against Scarver. “You try to minimize or mitigate his exposure and it just kind of backfires. He’s a lot to handle. He can flip a game wide open.”
Bohl is speaking from experience. In the 2018 season the Aggies made the trip to Laramie to face the Cowboys when Scarver took a third quarter kick off 99 yards for his third career kick return touchdown. Not only was Scarver untouched on the return, but his speed kept Wyoming defender no closer than 3 yards from him on the return.
By then, he was on every team’s radar in the kick game. He still is. Even coaches who have not been on the receiving end of a Scarver kick return want to keep it that way.
“He’s explosive. His vision and acceleration is really great.” San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke said.
“How? Like how? How are we going to handle and compete in that situation? To be able to find out what we need to do to be able to keep (Scarver) from going off on us,” Boise State’s first year head coach Andy Avalos added.
Good questions asked by Avalos. Questions that most coaches just don’t have an answer for.
“What you do is kick it away. You don’t let him touch the ball,” New Mexico head coach Danny Gonzalez said. “He can change the game at any moment. You’re flirting with a touchdown every time he touches the ball.”
“(Kicking it through the endzone) is the easiest thing,” Bohl added. “Sometimes you can’t do that and then you get really nervous.”
Scarver is heartburn on the gridiron for opposing coaches. Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun has not surrendered a TD return to Scarver in his career but he still can’t shake the image of what he did against the Falcons in-state rivals Colorado State in a game in 2019.
“I just can’t get it out of my mind,” Calhoun said. “He took one back 108 yards and how many times I’ve looked at that and just said, ‘Oh my goodness. This guy!’”
Scarver is one touchdown return short of tying form San Diego State star Rashaad Penny for the Mountain West record in career kick return touchdowns. But the memory he leaves with the current coaches in the conference is one they won’t soon forget.
“He’s the best kickoff returner I’ve seen in years and we had a really good in Penny at San Diego State,” Gonzalez said. “He’s dangerous. It’s a great weapon to have.”
“Instant play-maker,” Calhoun said. “Its not all bad when you score a touchdown without even having to play either your offense or your defense. He’s a unique talent.”