As 49ers head coach Mike Singletary headed to the locker room at halftime of Saturday's preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, he said his team needed to step up if they wanted to win the game.
Apparently, rookie quarterback Nate Davis took those words to heart.
The 49ers fifth-round pick entered the game in the third drive of the second half and proved why the coaching staff has been so high on him throughout training camp.
Davis displayed his athleticism, strong arm and poise, finishing the game 10-of-15 for 132 yards as the 49ers beat the Cowboys 20-13 in the new Cowboys Stadium.
"Nate came in, and he has some composure about him," Singletary said. "I thought overall, Nate did a fine job."
After the 49ers (3-0) struggled offensively in the first 39:16 of the contest, Davis needed only 5:34 to guide San Francisco to its first touchdown of the game.
Then with the game in the balance, Davis played more like a seasoned veteran than rookie appearing in only his third preseason game. He made all proper decisions and marched the team 91 yards in 1:19 before undrafted-rookie running back Kory Sheets capped the drive with his second score of the night. And with only 33 seconds remaining in the game, that was all the 49ers needed to secure the victory.
"I felt real good," Davis said. "The thing is to go out there, stay with your poise and go in there and play hard.
"You just have to go in there with confidence."
It was the second game-winning drive in as many weeks for Davis, who is 16-of-26 for 199 yards and a touchdown this preseason.
Davis' most memorable play of the night was on the third play of the game-winning drive when he was flushed out of the pocket and eluded Dallas defenders long enough to throw the ball downfield. Cowboys safety Courtney Brown committed pass interference on the play; after that, Davis didn't look back.
"That's what got us rolling," Davis said.
But in reality, Davis was rolling almost as soon as he stepped on the field. After an incompletion on his first attempt of the night, Davis was lights out the rest of his first drive as he helped the 49ers tie the game at 10 as the third quarter came to a close. He finished that drive 4-of-5 for 61 yards before Sheets high-jumped over the line for the score.
On that drive, Davis showed off his arm strength and did an excellent job of leading his receivers, which was most evident on a 19-yard completion to tight end Joe Jon Finley that set up Sheets' touchdown.
With training camp coming to a close, Davis is making strides every week towards earning a spot on the 53-man roster. However, Singletary is yet to name the No. 3 quarterback.
"We are still moving towards that decision," he said. "We will talk about it a little bit more, and thankfully we have a little more time to do that."
But while Singletary is still making that decision, he had plenty of praise for his rookie quarterback.
And Singletary wasn't the only person who noticed Davis' outstanding performance.
Starting quarterback Shaun Hill said Davis "threw some great balls out there" and that he enjoys watching Davis take positive steps every day.
"He is a great athlete and a strong kid," Hill said. "He led the team on a few drives, had huge plays on them. He did a great job on them."
And Davis wasn't the only rookie who did a great job down the stretch. With his play against Dallas, Sheets proved why the 49ers picked him up.
Saturday, Sheets showed he is more than a speed rusher as he punished Dallas between the tackles on several occasions. On his second touchdown run, Sheets shed several tacklers on his 9-yard scamper to the end zone.
This preseason, Sheets has 33 rushes for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
Up next, the 49ers will try to finish the preseason unblemished when they head to San Diego to face the Chargers on Sept. 4.