Keith Smith to the rescue - almost

By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 9, 1996

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Keith Smith did not know he was going to play the entire second half of the 21-20 loss to Iowa on Saturday.

The redshirt freshman, who gave up a professional baseball career to play football, just keeps getting his number called.

"They just tell me to go in and I do it," Smith said. "I don't really know when I'm going to play. I want to do whatever I can to help the team, and they just keep putting me in."

Smith's playing time seems to be uncertain even in the coaches' minds. All week leading up to the game, Arizona head coach Dick Tomey said Smith would probably be used in only specialty situations or down on the goal line.

Smith made his first appearance on the second drive of the game. He also took every quarterback snap of the second half. Perhaps being down 14-7 is a specialty situation.

"We got Keith into the game when we thought he could help us," Tomey said. "He's more mobile than (starting quarterback Brady) Batten and could get away from their pass rush a little better."

Smith finished the day 9-for-15 for 89 yards, two touchdowns (one rushing, one passing) and one interception. His first career passing touchdown was Arizona's first score.Smith play-action faked and flipped a pass to tight end Mike Lucky with 43 seconds left in the first quarter.

"I was really nervous out there," Smith said. "I just tried to calm myself down and concentrate. That first touchdown was great."

Smith's second-half appearance was mainly the result of his mobility. Arizona's pass protection had left much to be desired, as Iowa tallied five sacks on the afternoon. Batten finished 5-for-8 for 92 yards, but was consistently flushed into oncoming pass rushers.

"It seemed that he (Smith) was in because of the defense that was being thrown at us, not my performance," Batten said. "I don't think I did anything wrong. I just think it was something the coaches thought would help the team."

That decision seemed a mistake early as Smith opened the second half with an interception. On his first play, Smith threw the ball to Iowa's Tom Knight, which set up an Iowa touchdown.

"I said to myself, 'Oh man, I'm not going to be in there again,' but they told me to get in there on the next series," Smith said.

It was fortunate that Arizona did stick with Smith. In the third quarter he bolted from out of the shotgun for a 20-yard touchdown run.

"It was just open," Smith said. "I looked to Dice, but saw a chance to run."

For Smith, who said one of the main reasons he switched from baseball to football was because he had seen Arizona play Georgia Tech on television in 1993, playing in front of 68,000-plus people and on ESPN was a dream come true.

"All those people out there was unbelievable," Smith said. "It was the biggest crowd I've ever been in front of."

As for who will start the next game, that remains to be decided. Both Batten and Smith believe Batten is the starting quarterback. Either way, both are assured plenty of action.

"We need two quarterbacks to play in (the Pacific 10 Conference)," Tomey said. "They're both going to take a pounding."