PHOENIX — Reigning Arena Football League MVP Nick Davila is still out with a foot injury, but there won’t be a big rush to get him back on the field if his replacement, B.J. Coleman, continues his steady improvement.
The rookie from Chattanooga, making his third consecutive start, completed 20-of-34 passes for 212 yards and seven touchdowns as the Arizona Rattlers easily defeated the Las Vegas Outlaws 60-42 in front of 10,130 fans at US Airways Center Saturday night.
After the Arizona defense forced a turnover on downs on Las Vegas’ first possession, Coleman had a short field to work with and hit Rod Windsor on a 6-yard scoring strike with 10:37 remaining in the first quarter.
The Rattlers (6-2) would never trail.
Windsor and Markee White would each catch three touchdown passes and rookie Darrin Moore got into the act with a touchdown catch of his own with just :36 left in the contest.
Coleman led touchdown drives on nine of the Rattlers’ ten possessions on the evening. The only real negative in his performance was an interception by Las Vegas’ Tanner Varner that was returned 8 yards for a touchdown with just 3:05 left in the game.
Coleman admitted the game is slowing down with each and every snap he takes from center. He also credits others for his elevation on a steep learning curve.
“I think a guy like (former Rattlers quarterback) Jason Murrietta and (head coach) Kevin Guy both talking to me about their experiences,” he said. “Nick Davila is another guy who has really been in my ear. Shane Boyd — I mean the list goes on. Those guys have been through this and a lot of it is being able to match your footwork with the timing of the receiver’s routes, and that’s kind of where I’ve been off a little bit the previous two weeks.
“(Saturday), you could see a little bit more of the ball getting up and down which allowed those guys to run under it as opposed to me having to try and fit it in some of those windows and missing those opportunities.”
Coleman benefitted from a quick start by the Rattlers’ defense. Arizona forced turnovers on downs in Las Vegas’ first two possessions. He also got help from the running game. Fullback Mykel Benson carried 13 times for 26 yards and two touchdowns — both of which came in the final two minutes of the first half.
Defensive back Jeremy Kellem also came up with two second-half interceptions to help ice the game.
But Guy aimed most of the praise at his young quarterback.
“I thought he played outstanding tonight, throwing seven touchdowns in just his third ball game,” he said. “But he’s going to continue to grow and because he’s playing the way he’s playing, it gives us some flexibility not to rush Davila back if we don’t have to.”
Davila was injured in the Rattlers’ win over the LA KISS back on April 25. With the bye week coming, it’s very possible he’ll be ready to return May 30 when Arizona visits the Spokane Shock, but Coleman has proven he can lead the team to wins.
In the last two weeks, Coleman has thrown for 372 yards and 11 touchdowns while only being intercepted three times.