Rice football got plenty of production from unexpected sources in 2018, but Wiley Green‘s emergence from the bottom of the depth chart should be a surprise that sticks.
On the first day of fall camp Wiley Green handed the ball off to Juma Otoviano and watched his running back scampered through the hole and take off down the field for a touchdown. There were cheers from the offense, but then everyone went back to business as usual. It was just a normal practice and the scout team had scored a touchdown. Oh, how things change.
Fast forward to mid October. Starting quarterback Shawn Stankavage is out with an injury and Evan Marshman is taking reps with the starters. After a full day of practice head coach Mike Bloomgren calls for the backup quarterback to run a two-minute drill against the first team defense.
In trots Wiley Green who promptly hurls a pass between the shoulder pads of a waiting defender and holds his breath as it falls to the turf, narrowly missing an interception. The true freshman gathers his thoughts quickly and proceeds to march the offense down before firing a touchdown into the back corner of the endzone. The sideline erupted, again.
In those two innocuous moments a young team embrace an unlikely, strong-armed quarterback, implicitly promising their allegiance should he be called upon in a live game. It turns out that time would come sooner rather than later.
We struck gold with this freshman class,” he said, “They’re the kind of people that love football and they’re the ones that are going to help us build this program.
Days after Green engineered the mock comeback he was named Rice football’s starting quarterback. Green, who began the year fifth on the quarterback depth chart, started his first collegiate game in Denton, Tx against North Texas, just miles away from where he played high school football.
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Green didn’t win that game, but he lifted the heavy underdogs into a one-score game in the fourth quarter. He threw for 204 yards, the second most of any Owl quarterback to that point in the season, adding a touchdown through the air and on the ground. His encore performance came a week later, throwing for 313 yards and two touchdowns against UTEP.
After sitting the next two games to preserve his redshirt, Green returned to the starting lineup against Old Dominion, leading the Owls to their first Conference USA victory under Bloomgren.
When asked about it, Bloomgren could only laugh with an unbelieving smile. Who would have known the scout team passer would earn the biggest win of his head coaching career to date? Bloomgren certainly didn’t see it coming himself, but never wavered in his belief of these young men closing his final press conference of the season with confidence. “We struck gold with this freshman class,” he said, “They’re the kind of people that love football and they’re the ones that are going to help us build this program.”
Green ended the season with 621 passing yards passing, three passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns and four interceptions. If he has a strong fall camp he’ll likely be in line to start on opening day for Rice football in 2019. Not bad for someone who’s name was printed at the bottom of the depth chart in August.
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