In the biggest game of his young career, quarterback Walter Washington stepped into the spotlight and gave a glimpse of why Nebraska, Iowa and several other big-time programs were after his services.
Washington, a junior college transfer, led the Owls into overtime against the No. 12 Hokies. Temple lost the game, 24-23, on a botched extra-point attempt that would have tied the game and forced a second overtime.
But Washington stole the spotlight from running back Kevin Jones, Virginia Tech’s Heisman candidate, by eluding defenders, gaining extra yards after the first hit, and making one big play after another.
He created a handful of problems for Virginia Tech defense. When a defender got his hands on Washington, it wasn’t easy bringing the 6-foot-2 246 lb. quarterback to the ground. Hokies coach Frank Beamer was relieved to come out of Philadelphia with a victory after Washington ran over his players and almost gave the Hokies their second straight loss.
“That quarterback did a heck of a job,” Beamer said. “We couldn’t get him tackled. I’ve never seen a guy play against us that was that strong.”
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Washington scrambled for 39 yards. He finished the game with 151 yards on 26 rushes and threw the ball for 156 yards, completing 15 of 30 passes. His rushing yards placed him second on the Big East Conference’s quarterback single-game rushing record.
“He gives them another running back in the backfield,” Beamer said.
Washington made only his second career start on Saturday and he’s learning what defenses are doing to try and stop him, or at least contain him.
“They’ll do a variety of things,” Washington said. “Sometimes they’ll put a spy on a quarterback or put him in a pressure situation by blitzing, to make him make a mistake by throwing the ball. I’m catching on more [to defensive formations] as far as being able to know when to run and knowing when not to run but I feel like my legs and my feet can get me out of a lot of situations.”
Temple coach Bobby Wallace said Washington got the Temple fans into the game with his performance.
“We got a lot inspiration out of Walter Washington’s play,” Wallace said. “He has the talent to be one of the dominant players.”
Washington recently stepped in to fill the starting position for the injured Mike McGann. At Dodge City (Kan.) CC he was a NJCAA First Team All-American.
So can Washington deliver a physically demanding performance, like Saturday, week after week?
“Oh yeah,” Washington said. “They really didn’t get any good licks on me. I’m a pretty big guy.”
After nearly guiding Temple to its biggest win in five years, Washington had a bounce in his step at Tuesday’s practice, as if nothing had happened last weekend.
“It’s very hard to take a loss like that, when you should have won, and you have to go right back to battle,” Washington said. “But that’s what football is all about.”
Charles Peach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.