Boise State redshirt freshman linebacker Desmond Williams transitioned from pass defender to potential blocker to fumble-forcer in a span of 4 seconds Saturday.
His quick reaction — and ball-dislodging punch — prevented what seemed like an inevitable Troy touchdown that could have tied the season opener. Boise State led 17-10 with 1 minute, 1 second left in the third quarter.
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin will use the play as an example of the hustle required in college football. That play might be on the teaching tape for the Broncos for a decade or more, he said.
“That’s a huge play, and a huge hustle play for a young guy,” Harsin said. “And I thought for our team that was motivating for guys to see.”
Williams’ play ended what was one of the strangest plays in college football last week.
Williams lined up in pass coverage on the hashmarks against the middle of three receivers on the defense’s right side. Cornerback Reid Harrison-Ducros took the outside receiver and was left 1-on-1. Harrison-Ducros and receiver Deondre Douglas were the only players outside the hashmarks on that side of the field.
Quarterback Brandon Silvers tried to hit Douglas at the 10-yard line for a first down on third-and-8. But Harrison-Ducros read the play perfectly, stepped in front of the throw and looked like he could grab the pass for a pick-six.
Instead, the ball deflected off the cornerback’s hands to Douglas, who caught the ball at about the 12-yard line just inside the sideline and turned for the end zone.
Williams peeled off his receiver and drifted toward the sideline as the pass was thrown. He took one step upfield in anticipation of blocking for Harrison-Ducros, then redirected toward the sideline. By the time Douglas had the ball, Williams was several steps outside the hashmarks.
Williams ran along the 5-yard line, realized he wasn’t going to catch Douglas and turned toward the pylon to cut him off. Douglas left the ball exposed enough that Williams was able to knock it out from behind. The ball carried into the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback.
The initial call was a touchdown but that was overturned by the replay booth.
“If you see poor ball security, just attack the ball,” Williams said. “... I just dove and made a play on it.”
Said defensive coordinator Andy Avalos: “I think he kind of went into celebration and then reacted like, ‘Uh-oh.’ His reaction was impressive.”