The time was running out in a showdown game and, very likely, the New Mexico State football season late in the fourth quarter Saturday night when Aggies head coach DeWayne Walker posed the question:
"Coach," Walker said he inquired of offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar, "what do you want to do? We’re not moving the ball? Do you want to put the puppy in?"
At least, "the puppy" was what they used to call unused freshman quarterback Andrew Manley of Wahiawa.
Now, the Leilehua High graduate is known as "the big dog" after rallying the Aggies to a 16-14 victory over in-state rival New Mexico.
And, not just for his 6-foot-3, 225-pound size, either.
"He looks like an old pro out there," Walker said. "Like he’s done this before."
It could be because Manley has, albeit on the high school level. Manley made his name hereabouts as a sophomore when he was called up from the junior varsity during the 2007 Oahu Interscholastic Association playoffs, leading the Mules to five consecutive victories and a state championship. In the title game, Leilehua trailed Saint Louis 16-6 in the third quarter before Manley rallied the Mules to a 20-16 victory with the winning touchdown concluding a 63-yard drive with 36 seconds remaining.
Since arriving in Las Cruces, N.M., Manley has been stamped by Walker as the Aggies’ "future." It was why coaches had tentatively slotted him for a redshirt year and held him out of their first four games, the better to preserve a year of eligibility and let him grow into the role.
But in the midst of an 11-game losing streak and with the New Mexico game on the line Saturday, down 14-13 with the ball at the 50-yard line and the clock ticking, the Aggies decided redshirting him might be a luxury they could no longer afford. It became, quite simply, Manley Time. Sooner rather than later.
"We needed something because we weren’t moving the ball," Walker said.
And Manley did not disappoint, calmly driving the team, hitting both his passes for a total of 32 yards of the 40 that set up the game-winning field goal with 1 minute, 56 seconds remaining.
Now, Manley, who began fall camp No. 4 on the depth chart, is being considered for what would be his first start Saturday at Fresno State. In back-to-back weeks, it seems, the Bulldogs could be facing former Mules quarterbacks. Last week UH’s Bryant Moniz led the Warriors to a 49-27 victory.
But regardless of whether Manley starts — and Walker said it will be a late-week decision — he is scheduled to at least "get snaps" in the game.
"He has shown that he knows what he’s doing out there and that he can make plays," Walker said.
The Aggies had hoped as much when, on a recommendation, they checked out Manley’s highlights on YouTube a year ago, selling him on the opportunity to play early in his career. Though even they hadn’t imagined it might be this quick.
"When (Manley) signed, Norm (Chow, who had coached with Walker at UCLA) told me we got a steal," Walker said.
The Aggies concur, impressed by the way Manley handles success as much as the way he achieved it.
"He wasn’t giddy at all (afterward)," Walker said. "He’s not like a typical 18- or 19-year-old. He handled it like he’s done it a (bunch) of times."
A "puppy" no more.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.