In some ways, David Washington has had a gratifying season. Old Dominion’s versatile junior has contributed to wins at different positions and now returns to quarterback, from where he can lead and have a greater impact.
In some ways, Washington has had a frustrating season. He has been slowed and sidelined by injuries for the first time in his career and watched losses mount as the program makes the transition to the FBS.
“Early in the season, you could see people were discouraged, people were getting down,” Washington said. “But it’s getting better now. I think people realize that when you get discouraged, nothing good comes from that. It’s good to keep a positive mental attitude and keep your spirits up. A lot of us, if we see anybody getting down, we’ll do what we can to bring their spirits up.”
Barring further misfortune, Washington will start at quarterback as ODU (3-5, 1-7 Conference USA) attempts to snap a two-game losing streak at UTSA (1-7, 1-3) and the Alamodome Saturday on ASN.
“It’s the middle of the season,” he explained. “Everybody’s banged up. So I guess that’s how I would say it — I’m banged up. But I feel pretty good.”
Washington, 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, is energized for the final month of the season. He sees an offense making progress, in no small part due to his skill set and athletic ability. After bouncing back and forth between receiver and quarterback in practice through the first month, he now exclusively works at quarterback, the position for which he was originally recruited.
“It’s getting better every week,” Washington said. “I’m getting more comfortable. The more reps that I get, the more comfortable I am.”
The Monarchs’ offense struggled early in the season with redshirt freshman Shuler Bentley at quarterback. Washington, with limited practice time, relieved Bentley against Charlotte and turned in a remarkable performance — 25 of 43 for 365 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner to Zach Pascal in a 37-34 victory.
The following week, Washington went most of the way in a 41-12 loss to Florida International, before injuring his left knee in the fourth quarter. That game was a statistical anomaly. ODU had 498 yards of offense, but managed only 12 points because they came up empty on four trips inside the FIU 30-yard line.
“He gives us more athleticism at the position,” offensive coordinator Brian Scott said, “which allows us to do a few more things in the run game, because he can run the football. We call it 12-man football when the quarterback can run the ball. He’s got experience. Not necessarily at quarterback, but he’s played a lot of football.”
Washington missed last week’s loss to Western Kentucky due to the knee injury against FIU, his most recent malady. Playing receiver, he rolled an ankle on a touchdown catch in the opener versus Eastern Michigan, an injury that limited him the following two weeks. He then suffered a concussion against Appalachian State that caused him to miss the following game versus Marshall.
“Even with all that being said, his approach has been outstanding,” ODU head coach Bobby Wilder said. “He doesn’t complain about the injuries. He doesn’t want the other guys on the team to see that he’s hurt, because he knows, particularly the offensive line, is playing through pain right now, and he’s trying to set the right example. Which a good quarterback does. Regardless of the situation, he tries to set the right example.”
Washington admits that he got a little discouraged as injuries accumulated. But he’s back to relative good health. His experience within the offense, at both quarterback and receiver, flattens the learning and recovery curves a bit. Bentley is coming off of his best game, in the loss to WKU. The Monarchs can still become bowl eligible and see winnable games down the stretch.
“It’s exciting, because I’ve always had a lot of confidence in myself and in what the team can do,” Washington said. “And now to see everybody else start to gain that confidence that I’ve had, I can’t wait to see it all put together and be a part of it.”