ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
A multi-year starter at quarterback was demoted his senior season, and a father and son from Tallahassee, Fla., were gutted.
"It just broke my heart for that poor kid," Keith Dantin said.
Austin Dantin told his dad, 'Gosh, this sucks.' "
Four years after Florida State benched mainstay Drew Weatherford, the Dantins are reliving a similar nightmarish scenario. The fundamental difference is they are not emphathizing with someone else. This pain is personal.
Austin Dantin is no longer the starting quarterback with the University of Toledo football team. Likewise, a rotation that has been employed the past two years has been eliminated. The senior who has started 23 games has been reduced to a seldom-used back up, a reality he and his dad find to be more excruciating than their spectating viewpoint to Weatherford being victimized by a merciless numbers game.
"It's been extremely hard on me mentally," Austin said this week. "It has taken a toll for the last few weeks."
Dantin, who has appeared intermittently, and at various positions, since he started the opener at Arizona, wants to remain involved in any way possible.
He played on the punt coverage unit against Bowling Green, serving as a cog in a fake the Rockets never ordered up. Two weeks ago at Western Michigan, he ran a route on a reverse pass, of which the secondary quickly snuffed out. With the offense floundering in the first half Saturday against Central Michigan, he was summoned at quarterback. His drive ended in a punt, and he was exiled to the bench for the rest of the game.
"I'll go play defense," Dantin said, adding later, "I'm here for the team, and what's best for the team, but I'm not going to say it's not tough. I just have to deal with it."
Lending support are his parents, who are renting an apartment in Toledo for the season. A round of golf with his father, or dinner served of cajun fare, has livened his spirits during a season he deems the most trying in his career.
"It's been hard for us to be up here," Keith said, "but on the same token we're blessed to be able to support him."
The precise date that Dantin lost his job to junior Terrance Owens is subject to debate. Some submit it happened last November when Dantin suffered a concussion against Western Michigan, cracking the door open for Owens, who played brilliantly down the stretch and seemingly wrested control of the job heading into the offseason.
"I always felt like I was playing catch up," Dantin said.
Still, after splitting reps in the preseason, Dantin got the nod for the opener at Arizona based on a supposed coin flip by the coaches that neither quarterback was present for. In seven possessions, facing perhaps the best defense Toledo will see this season, Dantin led to three points. Owens, who also authored seven possessions, orchestrated two touchdown drives.
Overtime was messy. Dantin stumbled and fell on a promising run play before missing an open receiver in the end zone. The Rockets also drew a penalty for delay of game.
Owens started the following game at Wyoming, played wonderfully, and never left the field. Dantin did not appear for the first time, when healthy, since his freshman year. The competition, for all intents and purposes, was over.
Did Dantin get a fair shake?
"I don't know," he responded. "That's really for the coaches to decide. Obviously T.O.'s playing great. I guess it's an easier decision. In the back of my head I always think of worst case scenarios, and this was kind of my worst fear. Right now, it's a reality."
Keith Dantin, who went through pains in a phone interview to say he is not a disgruntled father and insists he does not question the decision of the coaches, saw the writing on the wall last year. Even the times his son played well, Owens received opportunities. The reverse is not true this year.
"I've always kind of had it in my mind that the way it went down last year they were setting up for T.O. to be the starter this year," he said. "I've seen it all over football."
Keith added: "Am I shocked? No. Am I upset? Sure. Do I understand? Yes, I do. The coaches have to do what's best for the team and sometimes the kids have to suffer for the team."
Austin's main gripe is he felt in limbo for a few weeks before he approached Campbell and sought an explanation. "He told me what I needed to hear," which is Owens will play until he is no longer the best option. Owens, who is 5-0 as the starter, has played a hand in 12 touchdowns and has turned the ball over just twice.
"Austin's a competitor," Campbell said. "He's a young man that deserves the right to play here and is a guy that we're going to need to win. His leadership has been outstanding. Everybody sees T.O. playing well, but what you don't see is a kid [Austin] that has sacrificed so much for our program and has won so many games for us. That's not easy."
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.