The Gladiators were down to their last chance to pull off a major upset, and there was no doubt who the play would be designed for.
It didn’t matter that Georgia knew where the pass was going, Thabiti Davis made the fourth-down catch, dragged defenders and dished a lateral to fellow wide receiver Etu Molden, who easily scored.
A failed 2-point conversion did in the Gladiators in their 69-68 loss to the Force on Sunday, but Davis might have established himself as Las Vegas’ go-to receiver.
Heading into today’s game against the Colorado Crush (4-3), Davis will have a chance to build on last week’s performance.
"He’s a big-time player," quarterback Brian Jones said. "He’s a force out there. He’s tough to tackle, he runs good routes and does stuff after the catch."
Davis caught 14 passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns against the Force.
It was especially impressive because he did it in Jones’ Arena Football League debut as a starter. The two looked as if they had played together for years.
"I think it was a matter of two competitors trying to make plays," Davis said. "I know Brian is tough-nosed, as well as I am. … We were trying to play up to our competition and put them in position where they knew it wasn’t going to be just a cakewalk."
Davis made his point loudest on crucial plays. He converted three third downs into first downs and came through on that big fourth down.
Jones tossed the fourth-and-10 pass to Davis for a 24-yard gain, and the lateral to Molden completed the 39-yard play with eight seconds left.
Even though the Gladiators lost to drop to 1-6, they might be able to build on the strong performance against one of the league’s better teams.
"Sunday was an example, I guess, of what I know this team can do and what I know I can do personally," Davis said.
Davis (6 feet 3 inches, 215 pounds) signed with the Gladiators after playing for four other AFL teams.
In 2004, he caught 127 passes for 1,557 yards and 26 touchdowns for Detroit, which folded. In 2005, he caught 113 passes for 995 yards and 19 touchdowns for New Orleans, which shut down the next season because of Hurricane Katrina.
Last season in Columbus, Davis didn’t receive as many opportunities — he had 46 receptions for 584 yards and 10 touchdowns. The experience so disheartened him that he won’t talk about it.
Davis started slow in Las Vegas, catching 28 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns in the first six games. He wasn’t helped by the offense’s struggles under then-quarterback Shaun King.
"I think that’s what’s going to excite these guys even more at receiver is we don’t go into any game going, ‘Hey, you’re going to catch 20 balls and this guy’s going to catch five, this guy’s going to catch five,’ " Gladiators coach Danton Barto said. "Jones will spread the ball around, and whoever’s open is going to get it. If that guy’s hot, we’re going to keep feeding him the ball. I think Thabiti for the first time realized that, ‘Hey, any given game, it can be you or it can be me.’ "Las Vegas Gladiators
LAS VEGAS VS. COLORADO WHEN: 6 p.m. today WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver TV/RADIO: none; KBAD-AM (920) LINE: Crush -10 1/2, total 108