Locos’ Willy hoping to stand up to pressure

Drew Willy has managed to keep the Locomotives in first place during his short time as their starting quarterback.

He has also spent a lot of time on his back.

Willy, who took over the job three weeks ago after Tim Rattay suffered a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury, has been sacked six times in his two starts, including four sacks in last week’s 24-10 win at Omaha.

Willy hopes to improve in that area and spend more time on his feet Saturday when Las Vegas (5-1) hosts the Sacramento Mountain Lions (2-4) in its United Football League regular-season home finale at Sam Boyd Stadium.

“It’s about getting better and better each week,” Willy said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think you have to know the situation, make your reads and get rid of the ball quicker. I didn’t do a good job of that last week. I never really found my rhythm.”

Las Vegas coach Jim Fassel said he doesn’t expect Willy to regress by repeating the mistakes he made last week.

“In fairness to him, our offensive line didn’t do a very good job of protecting him, and we’ve addressed that,” Fassel said. “He just needs to be more decisive where he goes with the ball.”

Overall, Willy has done a solid job of filling in since Rattay got hurt Oct. 15. He has completed 56 percent (32-for-57) of his passes, throwing for 289 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“I feel very comfortable out there,” said the 23-year-old Willy, a four-year starter at the University of Buffalo from 2005 to 2008. “I know the plays. I know what defenses we’re facing. I just need to execute better.”

Willy said learning from Fassel is like getting a master’s degree in quarterbacking.

“He has seen it all,” Willy said. “He’ll point something out that you think you’ve got covered and it turns out he’s right. He knows exactly what he’s talking about. I’ve learned a lot being with Coach Fassel.”

If Willy can avoid taking sacks, he’ll have a much better chance to be productive and help the Locos extend their five-game winning streak.

“We’ve got a lot of weapons, and it’s my job to see that they’re used properly,” he said. “I just have to make sure I see all my receivers and make the right decisions and I’ll be fine.”

■ NOTES — Cornerback Kevin Hobbs was named the UFL’s Defensive Player of the Week after he had an interception, three pass breakups and three tackles against Omaha. … Las Vegas released backup offensive tackle Cliff Washburn and replaced him on the roster with Herb Taylor, who had been playing for the New York Giants. … The Las Vegas Hilton has installed the Locos as 8-point favorites against Sacramento on Saturday. … Safety Lewis Baker, who missed last week’s game with a concussion, was back on the field practicing Tuesday and is expected to play against Sacramento.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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