It’s fair to say that, at no point in his short college career, has Will Plummer ever been the first choice to lead Arizona’s offense. Yet he keeps answering the bell when called on to step in.
As a true freshman in 2020 he was the clear No. 2 behind Grant Gunnell, unlikely to see much action unless necessary, when suddenly he was thrown into action on the second play of a game at UCLA. Plummer ended up playing the rest of that game and making his first career start a week later.
Then twice this season, after losing out to Gunner Cruz for the starting job, he’s served as the relief pitcher. Now he’s the only full-time arm left in the bullpen, someone Arizona cannot afford to get hurt.
Which made seeing him be sent to the locker room on multiple occasions during Saturday’s streak-ending win over Cal quite a stressful situation for UA coach Jedd Fisch.
“There were times I didn’t think he was going to be able to play the rest of the game,” Fisch said afterward. “He was just so resilient and so tough, and he did not back down. Kept coming back, kept battling. He’s gonna be sore and tired tomorrow, though.”
Plummer suffered a right shoulder injury during the second quarter of the 10-3 win, causing him to miss time—and for Arizona to turn to fourth-year sophomore walk-on Luke Ashworth, who had never played a college snap. A cut to his throwing hand in the third quarter also briefly knocked him out, with him getting the hand wrapped in the locker room as the UA took a 3-0 lead.
But he was back for Arizona’s next drive late in the third quarter, and though Plummer was intercepted to end that possession he took all but two snaps in the fourth quarter, including seven on the game-winning touchdown drive.
“That never crossed my mind about not being able to get back in,” Plummer said. “I wanted to be out there with the guys and wanted to get that win.”
Added receiver Stanley Berryhill III: “I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again, he’s the toughest quarterback I’ve played with.”
Plummer was 16 of 28 for 129 yards and two interceptions but he added a team-best 68 yards on 11 carries. The past two weeks Plummer has run for 99 yards and a TD after gaining only 14 yards in the previous five games he’s played this season.
“That’s never like my main part of my game, but if the opportunity is there I’ve got no problem tucking it away and getting whatever I can,” he said.
To illustrate just how chaotic Arizona’s quarterback situation has been during his two years, Plummer’s five starts are more than any other passer. So are his 10 interceptions, including seven this season, yet only Plummer can claim being the QB of record in a win.
“I hadn’t won a game in college, so it was something special,” he said.
The starting job is Plummer’s for the rest of the season, as long as he can stay in one piece. Once the offseason begins he’ll have to compete once again, both with Jordan McCloud—who is expected back for spring ball after undergoing ankle surgery—and incoming freshman recruit Noah Fifita, who is enrolling early.
Very few UA fans are likely to make him the favorite in that competition, nor may many want him to win the job. No bother, says Plummer, who has made it a point to ignore the “outside noise” from fans and other critics of the program.
“I really don’t care,” he said. “People want to say what they want to say about our coaches and our players but they don’t know what’s going on in our building.”