a spark for ASU
After three futile Appalachian State possessions to start last night's 40-17 season-opening loss to Hawaii, Mountaineers sophomore quarterback Richie Williams finally started to show the spark of his leadership and athletic ability.
There was every reason to believe Appalachian State's early display of anemic offense would continue on the same dreadful pace against the aggressive and intrusive Warrior defenders.
But it didn't go that way at all, and Williams was the reason.
Just when it looked like being shut out was a distinct possibility, he guided the Mountaineers to their first scoring drive early in the second quarter. Williams' 26-yard open-field run was the biggest momentum boost of the 12-play, 65-yard march, and even though ASU settled for a field goal, at least the pressure was off -- points were on the board and, more importantly, the ability to move against Hawaii was demonstrated.
"It was a plus that we could move up and down the field, even though we lost," Williams said. "The basic reads were there and when they blitzed, coming from the outside, I was able to sit in the pocket and make the right read. I just sat there, calm and patient in the pocket."
Two possessions later, Williams was at it again, taking the Mountaineers into the end zone for the first time by completing three passes, including a scoring strike to Zach Johnson.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Williams completed 11 of 20 passes for 132 yards, and he threw his only interception early in the third quarter. He also rushed 15 times for 37 yards, a number depleted by four Hawaii sacks.
Even though he has the wheels and the moves, Williams prefers the comfort of the pocket to the uncertainty of scrambling and ricocheting off of defenders while trying to escape.
"When it comes right down to it, eight times out of 10, I'd like to sit there and throw," he said.
Williams was under constant pressure early in the second half and the ASU offense's drought conditions returned briefly. But he shook it off by capping a long drive with a 46-yard over-the-middle TD pass to DaVon Fowlkes. It cut Hawaii's lead to a palatable 34-17 late in the third quarter.
The Camden, S.C., native redshirted in 2001 and became the first Mountaineers freshman since 1989 to start at quarterback a year ago in a season-opening loss to Marshall.
He plans to enjoy the rest of his short stay in Hawaii by going to a Waikiki beach with most of his teammates. The team's return flight leaves today at about 4 p.m.
The Appalachian State defense also picked up the pace after giving up three first-quarter touchdowns, finishing with three sacks and three interceptions. The Mountaineers' defensive unit gave up only one touchdown the rest of the way. Hawaii's last touchdown -- Ross Dickerson's kickoff return -- came against the ASU special-teams unit.