Terrance Owens moved delicately along a hallway on the second floor of the University of Toledo football complex, his right foot confined to a medical walking boot.
Nothing to see here, folks, he assured the scrum of media members assembled for the weekly Monday news conference. Tending to a minor injury that has lingered since the season opener, the quarterback was merely giving his ailing ankle the day off. On Saturday, it got an unusual amount of work.
Fashioned by himself as a traditional pocket passer, Owens unveiled an aptitude for running the ball in a 50-35 win over Central Michigan he has kept mostly concealed throughout his three seasons. His 81 net yards — on 10 attempts — were reduced to 66 after deductions from a pair of sacks. Nonetheless, his final total, which came gifted with two rushing touchdowns, is the second most of his career behind the 74 he collected this year at Wyoming.
"I like running the ball," Owens said, "but I prefer throwing the ball."
For as long as he plays the sport, the fourth-year junior will never be the type of player who stamps a 1000-yard campaign to his legacy. That's not an accomplishment he longs for, nor is the reputation of a yard-guzzling runner of importance to him. He lacks the burst of, say, Michael Vick, the NFL veteran whom Owens has long taken interest in because of the outcast label they share as left-handed quarterbacks. Owens is born more from the mold of Tom Brady, another quarterback he admires, who is as bound to the passing pocket as Owens' foot is to his walking boot.
With 47 carries this year, Owens already has established a career high. Three of his five TDs have come this year, which is only at its halfway point. Those feats come in part because he is now the team's permanent option at quarterback after sharing duties his first two years. But also because he is surprisingly proficient with his feet. Consider Saturday's fourth quarter.
Ahead by five points with 3:03 to go, Toledo needed to travel 75 yards for a touchdown that would deliver the knockout blow. Owens accounted for 40 of them on the first play of the drive, keeping the ball on a zone-option after reading the defensive end crashing down the line. A fleet-footed quarterback might have gone the distance given the same circumstance, securing the outcome. That has never been Owens, whose longest run of his career set up a 28-yard field goal.
"We felt like we had some things in the running game with our quarterback in the second half," coach Matt Campbell said after the game.
Owens, who posted TD runs earlier in the day of 11 and 1 yards, suggests he is a more adept runner than people realize "because I don't run often."
Saturday's game was anomalous on several fronts. Owens threw an interception in the first half, snapping a streak of 277 consecutive passes and eight games without one. He also failed to throw a touchdown pass for the second week in a row, this coming in the wake of a streak of eight games with one or more. Yet he was crowned player of the game, mostly for the output he gave with his scarcely-used body limbs.
"I know my abilities," he said. "I use what I have to make plays."
SHORT YARDS: The home game against Cincinnati on Oct. 20 will kick off at 7 p.m. and be streamed online on ESPN3. ... Bernard Reedy was named Mid-American Conference West division special teams player of the week, marking the fifth time in six weeks a different Rocket has received a divisional award. Reedy totaled 201 return yards, returning one punt 66 yards for a touchdown and another for 53 yards. ... Receiver Justin Olack was expected to have an MRI on Monday on his shoulder. Olack, the team's sixth leading receiver with nine catches, suffered the injury in the first half and did not return. ... Campbell said defensive tackle Danny Farr might return this week at Eastern Michigan after missing the four prior games with a knee injury.
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