The game was over before it started. After halftime, Weber State quarterback Billy Green may have realized he was the starter and this was his team. He threw for 62 yards, completed just six passes and had zero touchdowns against No. 19 Arizona State in the first half of its game on Thurs. Aug. 28. The Sun Devils, who were 45-point favorites according to oddsmakers, were up 31-0.
In Green’s first series of the second half though, the transfer from BYU who could play immediately for the Wildcats showed off his Division I caliber arm, a cannon that still permitted him to play a handful of snaps in run-happy Provo.
Green took two steps back in play action on this 99-degree evening in Tempe, gripping and ripping a ball diagonally to his immediate right, floating the ball past all of his receivers into the Sun Devil Stadium stands. Soon after that and because it had to get something going, The Weber State football team would turn the ball over on downs and later trail 38-0.
Something strange happened when the Wildcats got the ball back though. Green dropped back in play action, went to the same right corner, gripping and ripping the ball diagonally between two ASU defenders.
Wildcats receiver Shaydon Kehano grabbed this pass thrown into a seam, leaping into the end zone while doing a 180, for a 19-yard touchdown. The score was still 38-7–but after missing out on several scoring opportunities in the first half, this TD was important.
Weber State knew going in that it had no chance in Tempe against the No. 19 Sun Devils, and eventually the final score would read 45-14 in favor of ASU.
Yet Green’s touchdown pass–the first of his mostly forgettable collegiate career–gave Wildcats fans hope, something they needed after watching one coach (John L. Smith) leave for no reason, and after watching his replacement leave after two subpar seasons trying to save the program Smith abandoned.
Money games are rarely fair for the teams on the other end, for teams like Weber State on the losing end of a lopsided score. For the most part, Weber’s receivers couldn’t handle the bullets that flew from Green’s gun of a right arm. They bobbled his tosses and watched as other throws boinked off of their shoulder pads. In all, Green threw 29 times in this dry desert heat, completing 14.
When Wildcats receivers could hang on to the football, like Kehano could though, the result was magic. Kehano had 99 yards receiving on six catches–only one other Weber State wide out had more than one catch (Cam Livington, 5-40) on this evening in the high desert.
You could envision Green fitting more throws in on Idaho State–a 56-14 sacrificial lamb to Utah this eve–and even on mighty Montana. Green gives Weber State a puncher’s chance in a Big Sky Conference filled with heavyweights.
The Wildcats even showed more moxie as the game went on. The offense and Green emerged out of the shadows of their own end zone after a punt pinned the Wildcats at their own 1-yard line. A defensive penalty by ASU propelled Weber State forward but then Green’s rip flew five yards over the purple helmet of his intended receiver.
On the next play, faced with a third down, Green rolled two yards left with defensive linemen coming to rip his head off from both sides. Yet the former BYU star stood in his own end zone, took a shot from the two Sun Devils and completed the pass for a first down.
Weber State moved the chains with the 10-yard pass play, and Green was a blur as he dropped back on the next play, ripping a pass into his intended receiver when he could have just blooped it into the receiver’s chest–throwing it against his body. Here Green was, playing at a high tempo as if he was still playing at BYU–when he was playing with kids who stood a few inches shorter and ran a few steps slower.
It didn’t matter. Green was only playing at one speed, all out. Somehow, some way, he would get his teammates to play at the same pace as him. The only thing was, the transformation he wanted so badly to happen right now would take time, and Thursday’s game in blazing Tempe was the first step.
It was an exciting step for Wildcats fans, one that resulted in howitzers being launched from Green’s arm, an arm that could take Weber State to places it never thought it would land, more wins, more accolades, and possibly–after Thursday’s showing against the No. 19 FBS team in the land–playoffs.
In the meantime on Thursday night in the desert, reality set in. The last seconds began to tick down and out on Weber State’s and Green’s first game of the season, a game in which the Wildcats played as hard as they possibly could but didn’t stand a chance for a number of reasons.
They couldn’t run the ball effectively against the Pac-12 Sun Devils first-team defense, and they couldn’t stop Arizona State’s first-team offense from scoring points. But, the Wildcats–namely Green–were able to throw. And sometimes, even that opens up a run game through which a ball carrier can zig and zag on a draw play.
His name was Zach Smith, a sophomore from Orlando, Florida. Up until this play, Smith only ran for 68 yards. Early in the game he had a chance to punch it in for a touchdown. But Arizona State’s D-line scraped its massive 300-pound-plus bodies across the goal line, forming a human wall of maroon jerseys across the area Smith wished to go.
That was in the first quarter. But, if you give up and stop trying–which is kind of what the Wildcats did last season–you’ll never know. In the fourth quarter, Smith got through the mass of maroon jerseys this time, blazing into daylight for a 60-yard touchdown with five minutes left to cut the Sun Devils lead to 45-14.
You’ll never take a moral victory if you’re Wildcats head coach Jay Hill–and he didn’t in his post-game press conference. “Arizona State did what you would expect a team like that to do and they are a terrific team,” Hill said. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t defend better than we did. We didn’t stick to our plan to win and made too many mistakes. I thought our guys took a bunch of punches but they bounced back and played hard. There are no moral victories. We had some positive things happen but the bottom line is we have to get better as a team.”
But, on this occasion and against all odds, and if you believe just a little in yourself, you’ll take a shot at mighty Goliath any way you can get one. Having the courage to do so might help you, and your new QB, defeat the Davids later.