Javelle Allen lined up for the third play of his college career against NAU, ready to make his first-ever pass.
The play was “bubble read,” and Allen was going to hit running back Jared Baker out of the backfield. At the last second, Allen saw that the man covering Baker was blitzing and a safety was coming down to cover the running back.
If he threw the ball, it was going to be a no-doubt interception by the NAU defender. That left one option — tuck and run.
“I just thought,’I hope I make a play out of this,’ ” Allen said. “So, as soon as I pump-faked, I threw the linebackers out of the way, and it left one big hole. I just took it and hit it as hard as I could.”
The result? Allen went 61 yards for his first career touchdown.
“Everybody — my friends, my family, they all saw it on TV,” Allen said. “I got back to my phone, and there was like a million text messages. It felt great.”
Allen finished the game with two rushes for 67 yards and never did get to attempt that pass. It seemed logical that the redshirt freshman would earn a longer look against UNLV.
Instead, the “or” that was in between B.J. Denker and Allen’s name on the UA’s depth chart as the starting quarterback was removed after the NAU game.
Sixty-one yards and a demotion.
Denker had done enough against the Lumberjacks to cement his status as the team’s No. 1 quarterback. Allen was listed as the No. 2 for UNLV. And with a 45-6 lead over the Rebels at halftime, it seemed like a good time to get Allen some work with the first-team offense. But, Denker played the third quarter, and Allen didn’t enter until the fourth quarter with the rest of the second unit.
“I thought I would have gotten in a little earlier, but we needed to get some work in,” Allen said. “There’s no need to be selfish. As a team, we needed to get that work in and get those reps.”
Allen got two carries again against UNLV, but this time, had just one yard total and still didn’t attempt a pass. But, the Prosper, Texas, native is lurking if Denker struggles or suffers an injury.
“I’m being patient; I’m going to do what they want me to do,” Allen said. “Right now, I’m just trying to take it all in.”
Coach Rich Rodriguez added: “He keeps getting better every week, and that’s an encouraging sign.”
Allen came into fall camp as somewhat of an afterthought at quarterback. Denker, transfer Jesse Scroggins and freshman Anu Solomon were all thought to be ahead of Allen.
But after a rocky first year on campus that saw him both gain weight and lose favor with the offensive coaches, Allen worked his way up the depth chart.
“Last year, I was thinking ‘It’s my redshirt year, I’m not going to play.’ It was just kind of like, in the back of my mind, ‘I just got to college, I want to have fun,’ ” Allen said. “After football season, in the spring, I started dedicating myself a lot more, and that carried on through to now. Now, I’m doing a lot better compared to where I was last year.
“I’m throwing the ball better, I’m able to make reads, able to see how the coaches think.”
Rodriguez took a couple of shots at Allen through the media in the spring, saying the freshman looked more like a fullback than a quarterback. The coach said last week he was trying to motivate Allen and send him a message that he had to get in better shape and take his craft more serious.
Allen didn’t take the criticism personally. He knew Rodriguez was right and worked over the summer to get in the mix.
“Once you get it in your mind that you’re going to get yelled at, you just have to get over it and see the big picture,” Allen said. “You have to have a short memory and just forget about things and keep going.”
Allen will serve as the backup to Denker again Saturday against UTSA but plans on battling with the senior all season.
“It’s always going to be a competition until the last game, no matter what,” Allen said. “You’re always competing; that’s what makes all of us better.”