College football • USU senior slows Bulldogs' star WR early, makes rare pick of La. Tech QB.
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Ruston, La. • As far back as three weeks ago, Willie Davis was thinking of his nemesis.
Utah State's senior cornerback had never actually met Quinton Patton, and had never played against him exclusively. But he knew his day was coming to match up against one of the top wide receivers in the country.
"I wasn't trying to disrespect any of the teams we were currently playing," Davis said. "But I was pretty much always thinking of him and about playing against him, because I knew it was a huge matchup."
Saturday's 48-41 win over Louisiana Tech at Joe Aillet Stadium gave USU a conference title. Davis' contribution to that win slowing down Patton, who pretty much hadn't been slowed down all season was huge.
Davis had five tackles, two pass breakups and one interception of Bulldogs quarterback Colby Cameron.
More importantly, he limited Patton's impact on the game. A candidate for conference player of the year, Patton didn't score a touchdown. He caught 11 passes for 181 yards, but was limited to just a pair of catches in the first half, as Utah State built a sizable advantage.
"We wanted to be physical with him," Davis said. "We saw on film that other teams were so scared of what he could do that they backed off him. We didn't want to do that. We wanted to go out there and challenge him a little bit."
Davis and Nevin Lawson did that, both playing man defense on Patton for most of the game. Davis' interception was the first for Cameron in 444 consecutive attempts, an NCAA record. It came in the end zone, as Louisiana Tech was driving for a touchdown at the end of the first half.
A first-year starter, Davis was invited this week to the Senior Bowl. The last two USU players to compete there were Bobby Wagner and Curtis Marsh. Both are playing in the NFL now.
"I thought the corners really took pride and took the fight to the Louisiana Tech receivers," Utah State head coach Gary Andersen said. "We play man defense, and that's high-risk. But they competed really hard and they made plays on the ball down the field."