No matter the level, football’s still important to Rohan Davey.
That’s why the ex-LSU quarterback was so excited Saturday after leading the San Antonio Talons to a 56-53 Arena League victory against the VooDoo in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I wouldn’t be playing unless it meant something to me,” said Davey, now 35, who joined the Talons this season after three years out of football. “For me, that’s competing for a championship, whether it’s in college (the Tigers won the Southeastern Conference championship in Davey’s senior season), the NFL (Davey earned two Super Bowl rings as Tom Brady’s backup in New England) or this league.
“So any time you win and get closer to that championship, it’s a good thing.”
Davey’s winning performance Saturday came in the same building where he had arguably the best night of his playing career — throwing for 444 yards and three TDs in LSU’s 47-34 victory against Illinois in the 2002 Sugar Bowl.
Davey said he didn’t know that Saturday’s game would be played in the Superdome because of ongoing renovations to the New Orleans Arena until last week.
“When I heard that, I knew it was going to be a good night for me,” he said. “I love the Superdome.
“I just made it a little harder on myself though.”
He did that with a poor start — three incompletions and an interception on San Antonio’s opening series — to finish 26 of 42 for 254 yards and three touchdowns plus a quarterback sneak for a another TD in a wild fourth quarter that featured back-to-back kickoff returns for TDs and which saw the Talons (7-6) come from behind four times, the last on Chad Cook’s 15-yard run with 2:25 left.
The VooDoo (3-10) reached the San Antonio 11 in the closing seconds, and coach Pat O’Hara chose to go for the victory instead of a field goal attempt to force overtime.
But backup quarterback Chris Dixon, who replaced an ineffective Kurt Rocco in the second quarter, was forced to scramble and was tripped by Jamar Ransom as he was throwing and the ball landed nowhere near any receiver.
“Coach made the right call,” Dixon said. “We had a chance to win it, and he put in the right people.
“We’ve just got to make the play.”
O’Hara said the ineffectiveness of kicker Gary Cismesia, whose two earlier missed extra point attempts wound up being the difference in the game, was his reason for going for the TD.
“I felt like I wanted to leave it in the hands of our athletes who had been making plays for us the whole second half,” he said. “I stand by that decision.
“I know Chris wants that last play back. But it’s one of those decisions a head coach makes, and I think it was the right call.”
The defeat clinched a losing season for New Orleans, which plays four of its last five games on the road, including the next three.
While Dixon said he expected Rocco to remain the starter, O’Hara seemed open to a change with the playoffs out of reach.
“I’ll watch the tape,” he said. “I think it needs to be a competitive situation, so we’ll see how it goes.
“I sleep on it and then think if over the next couple of days. We’ll go with whoever has a good week.”
Dixon entered the game late in the first half with the VooDoo trailing 21-6 after Rocco was intercepted three times in his team’s first four possessions.
Dixon, a three-time Indoor Football League MVP who played at Humboldt State, was assigned to the VooDoo on May 31. Saturday, he gave the team an immediate spark with his running — including an eight-yard TD carry to end his first possession.
Dixon wound up throwing for four more TDs on 10-15 passing and carrying nine times for a net of 59 yards as the VooDoo scored on every possession he played save the final one.
“I don’t get a lot of reps during the week, but when coach told me to get ready there in the second quarter, I felt like I was,” Dixon said. “You always want to be prepared.”
Davey’s winning performance Saturday was his second straight after he had missed eight weeks with an ankle injury.
It came with some of his old LSU teammates, including Kevin Faulk, Rondell Mealey and Travis Moses present, along with members of the school’s strength and medical staff from Davey’s days with the Tigers.
“That meant a lot to me,” said Davey, who wore an LSU T-shirt under his jersey and shoulder pads. “This team reminds me a lot of what we had at LSU — a bunch of guys fighting for the same cause.
“As long as we’re doing that, it’s all worth it.”