Losing one of the more prolific passers in FCS would be a cause for concern for most teams.
But when LaMontiez Ivy went down with an ankle injury against Alabama A&M, Jackson State interim coach Derrick McCall didn’t seem too worried, mostly because of what he had seen from backup quarterback Jarin Morikawa during practice.
“From Day 1 when he came in, I knew something was very special about him just seeing him practice, just seeing him getting his reps and knowing he’s a cool-headed guy,” McCall said.
For at least one game, Morikawa displayed what his coach already seemed to know when he completed 25 of his 40 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns in a stellar effort against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday.
Morikawa, who made his first start for Jackson State, completed passes to 11 different receivers. He was named SWAC Newcomer of the Week on Monday.
“He’s very poised in the pocket, goes through his progression and spreads the ball around …,” McCall said. “He was calm and ready to play … I think as the game went along, the more confident he became.”
Until Ivy’s injury against the Bulldogs, Morikawa had not received many game reps. Even when there were some opportunities to put him in during some lopsided losses earlier in the season.
So Morikawa was thrown into the fire in a close game against Alabama A&M. He showed an ability to make plays in the fourth quarter of that contest when he bought some time and connected with receiver Jairus Moll for a 20-yard gain on a third-and-17 play.
He completed 5 of 9 passes for 30 yards, his last three attempts fell incomplete in a 28-22 loss, though. But the experience helped calm any stress he had as he prepared for the Golden Lions.
“I think it helped a little that I got some game action at Alabama A&M, so I wasn’t too nervous going into the game (against UAPB),” Morikawa said. “Getting most of the reps at practice during the week helped me prepare.”
Morikawa stepped up with his performance, but knows his position entails more than that, so he’s working on his leadership, too.
“It comes with the position. You naturally have to be a leader,” he said. “Everybody can lead in different ways, but you definitely have to step up and lead by example and step up verbally when it’s needed.”
McCall said Ivy was “day-to-day” with his ankle as of Monday, but preached week-to-week competition between Ivy and Morikawa when it comes to the quarterback job when Ivy is at full health
Contact Antonio Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @AntonioCMorales on Twitter.