LAFAYETTE — The veteran version of Will Bellamy occasionally becomes wide-eyed at the idea of fitting a pass into a space where there is no room for error.
On a St. Thomas More pass play against Hahnville on Friday, a determined defensive line pressure flushed Cougar quarterback Bellamy to his left — outside the pocket.
With a tight window as a target, Bellamy gathered himself while rolling. Trevor Begue was roughly 50 yards downfield. It is a scenario that caused a handful of Cougars coaches to display a mix of excitement and mild laughter on Tuesday afternoon.
One one hand, they value quarterbacks such as Bellamy or his predecessor Brandon Bergeron (now at LSU), who can complete 65 to 70 percent of pass attempts while avoiding unnecessary risks. But this low-percentage, on-the-move downfield effort that resulted in a touchdown became a memorable moment.
“Will actually worked opposite of where his receivers were,” Cougars offensive coordinator Shane Savoie said. “It made for a harder throw on Will’s part. But he did a good job of escaping the pocket and getting his eyes back to a read progression. He threw a strike down the field and Trevor ran by the safety and made a huge play.”
As STM has started 4-1 with a most recent 52-12 win over Hahnville, Bellamy has completed 74-of-125 passes for 957 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. It is partially a product of being a three-year starter and a senior. “As a sophomore, I didn’t have a feel for the pocket,” Bellamy said. “I have gotten better on that, and my peripheral vision has gotten better.”
That growth has given Bellamy the answers to some questions: When can I take risks? How do the down and distance and the score relate to taking certain chances or playing it safe?
“That has been a huge development of his over the last three years,” Savoie said. “Game awareness and situational awareness and just understanding what we can and cannot do as a quarterback. There are a lot of little things involved in it. He has progressed a ton in that area.”
Some individual and team progression comes during a single game. Bellamy’s favorite moment so far this season was not the score by Begue against Hahnville. That was early with the overall outcome still in doubt. His proud moment: “The Plaquemine game for sure,” Bellamy said.
The Cougars trailed Plaquemine 34-28 in Week 3 in the closing seconds when Bellamy located receiver Matthew LaGrange in the end zone to help turn that situation into a 35-34 victory.
Each of those steps of improvement appeal to Bellamy. When he talks about his favorite quarterback, the first words about Green Bay Packer Aaron Rodgers are not Super Bowl or champion. Bellamy goes further back.
“He was underestimated,” Bellamy said. “People told him he wasn’t good enough.”
Before Rodgers excelled at the University of California and in Green Bay, he spent a year at Butte College in California.
The drive Bellamy has displayed as a 6-foot tall quarterback has been part of the package along with the safe moments and the risky ones. Cougars coach Jim Hightower recognizes that Bellamy’s high completion percentage has not been built on the easiest of terms.
“You can be 65 to 70 percent in completion rate if everything is screens and short passes,” Hightower said. “I would like to know how many balls Will has launched 50 yards. A lot.”
Getting to that point took some time as Bellamy sorted out the best way for him to handle quarterbacking duties.
“Will is a fierce competitor ... maybe at one point a little too much, and he learned how to channel that,” Hightower said. “He thrives on it, and it shows up in those high pressure situations. The success he has had, it is also the linemen giving him protection and receivers running good routes. It is a team game.”