Making his first start at quarterback for Plant, sophomore Phillip Ely admittedly was nervous. But if there's one thing that can slow the heartbeat of a young quarterback, it's a good start, and that's precisely what Ely had. How good?
Well, he completed his first 10 passes and on his first series marched the Panthers 74 yards in 12 plays capped by a 7-yard scoring strike to Allen Sampson. Afterward, Ely, replacing injured star Aaron Murray, was greeted with a chest bump by coach Robert Weiner.
"Phillip did such an unbelievable job on that drive," Weiner said.
He didn't stop there.
In Plant's 50-14 win, Ely completed 25 of 34 passes for 224 yards and five touchdowns.
"He did real good," Plant tight end Orson Charles said. "He stepped up."
It didn't hurt that Ely had plenty of help. The receivers for Plant (6-1 2-0 4A-10), as usual, were sharp. And the line gave Ely time to throw throughout.
"It was an all-around team effort," Ely said. "They had confidence in me, and that picked me up."
Ely did most of his damage with a short passing attack. He spread the ball around well. Three players (Charles, Justin Rudolph and Allen Sampson) had at least four catches. Two scoring strikes went to Charles, and two more were to Sampson.
Leto (2-6, 0-2) trailed 14-7 late in the first half. But two Ely touchdown passes and a Sampson punt return in the final 2:18 blew it open.