COMMENTARY

Quarterback no dilemma for Rockets

9/16/2012
BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Toledo running back David Fluellan carries the ball as Bowling Green defensive lineman Ted Ouellet holds on during the fourth quarter.
Toledo running back David Fluellan carries the ball as Bowling Green defensive lineman Ted Ouellet holds on during the fourth quarter.

Wally Pipp was a pretty good baseball player. Lost in the legend of Lou Gehrig is that Pipp twice led the American League in home runs and had a lifetime batting average of .281. Not Hall-of-Fame worthy, perhaps, but not bad either.

Still, one day in June of 1925, as the story goes, Pipp had a headache and Gehrig started instead at first base for the Yankees. And Gehrig, who you might know as the Iron Horse, would start 2,130 consecutive games.

Austin Dantin, like Wally Pipp, is a pretty good player, football being his sport and quarterback being his position. He started 10 straight games to open last season for the University of Toledo. In the 10th game he took a shot to the head and was sidelined with what was called concussion symptoms.

Terrance Owens finished that game, started the last three, and completed an astounding 92 of 125 pass attempts for 1,070 yards, 12 touchdowns, and four victories.

Owens put up another 300-plus-yard game Saturday night to lead the Rockets to a 27-15 win against Bowling Green before a capacity-plus crowd of 28,115 in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams at the Glass Bowl. It was the second straight game Owens has played start to finish and a second straight win.

You won't get UT head coach Matt Campbell to say this, but Austin Dantin just may have been Pipped.

Matt Campbell has gone with quarterback Terrance Owens two straight games, both wins.
Matt Campbell has gone with quarterback Terrance Owens two straight games, both wins.

T.O., as Owens is known, is a confident, comfortable quarterback these days, and there doesn't seem to be any reason for the junior to not be on the field.

He had 193 passing yards early as the Rockets jumped to a 17-0 lead. The big strike was a 66-yarder to Alonzo Russell midway through the first quarter, a perfect pass down the left sideline that hit the receiver in stride, to open the scoring.

"That was really big," Owens said. "I saw man-to-man coverage, and I looked out to Alonzo and I knew he'd catch it. We wanted to come out and strike fast and make a statement. We knew we'd have to execute perfectly."

There's little that Owens hasn't been doing at least well, if not perfectly, since taking the reins last season. Whether it's a touch pass, a swing or dump type to a back, or a timing pass or something with some zing across the field, or on a deep pattern, he's pretty good. He knows to get rid of the ball to avoid losses, and he can find an opening to boost UT's running game.

"He's an accurate quarterback, and he can create a dilemma by making plays with his feet," said BG coach Dave Clawson. "You have to defend the whole field. He's good with the deep ball and on intermediate stuff, and it's not like he's immobile. If you're not perfect in the rush lanes, he can find creases. He's a good quarterback and he's got good receivers."

Bernard Reedy has been Owens' go-to guy, but Russell was the main man Saturday night with six catches for 152 yards. T.O. also threw eight times to running backs.

A year ago, the Rockets ran for more than 250 yards in a win at BG, and Clawson said his Falcons tried to discourage that this time by cheating a safety closer to the line of scrimmage. Owens' arm foiled that strategy.

"I'm pretty confident," Owens admitted. "I'm comfortable with everything we're doing. It's just a matter of knowing situations, managing the game, and executing."

That pretty much defines the position, which he should claim next Saturday when UT returns to the Glass Bowl for a non-league game against Coastal Carolina.

Campbell has been non-committal about his starter since the beginning of camp -- Dantin was the starter and played the majority of UT's season-opening overtime loss at Arizona -- and was still playing those cards after Saturday's game.

I understand Campbell being sensitive to Dantin's situation. He's a senior who started three times as a true freshman and who has played a key role in UT qualifying for bowl games in each of the last two seasons. He has a career completion percentage of .645.

Wally Pipp wasn't a bad baseball player. Austin Dantin is not a bad quarterback.

But Terrance Owens is the right quarterback for right now.

"I don't worry about the starter stuff," T.O. said. "At the end of the day, we're all doing what we have to do to win the MAC."

It's a safe bet Dantin would say the same thing.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.