UT ROCKETS FOOTBALL

Campbell defends struggling QB Owens

9/10/2013
BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens, left, throws a pass under pressure.
Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens, left, throws a pass under pressure.

The barrel staring at Terrance Owens after a bad start to this season is now focused on the quarterback’s detractors.

In an impassioned defense of his maligned leader, University of Toledo coach Matt Campbell fired back Monday at those who’ve taken shots at the play of Owens in the team’s 0-2 start.

Campbell spent almost two minutes answering a question about the intense scrutiny Owens is under in the wake of a three-interception showing at Missouri.

"That’s the media, right? And that’s the fans," he said.

This is vintage Campbell. Some coaches use the media to motivate their players. Toledo’s coach uses the media to defend his players.

Owens
Owens

Campbell insisted two of the interceptions Owens threw were "flukey." The coach blamed slipping in both cases. He said Owens stumbled trying to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone before halftime. On UT’s next drive the ball slipped from Owens’ hand, Campbell said, leading to a 70-yard touchdown return by lineman Markus Golden. Owens gave the same explanation after the game.

"If somebody can teach me how to coach those, then I’d like to know how to coach them," Campbell said.

Owens, who became the full-time starter a year ago at this time, has authored just two touchdown drives this season. He has completed 54 percent of his throws and has four interceptions to one touchdown pass.

Owens, who did not attend the Monday news conference, has not been right since midway through last season. In his last seven games since the Cincinnati win on Oct. 20, Owens has thrown nine interceptions and three touchdowns. His completion percentage in that time is about 54. A couple of sprained ankles and messy weather contributed to his slide last year. It remains to be seen if a difficult schedule — two Southeastern Conference opponents — is the primary culprit for Owens’ latest struggles.

"It’s tough to play quarterback," Campbell said. "Everybody’s going to talk about it. The media’s going to talk about it. You’re at the forefront of it, and every play you make is going to be criticized good and bad."

Campbell praised his quarterback’s resilience. Owens bounced back from consecutive interceptions Saturday with consecutive touchdown drives. He finished off a four-play drive in the third quarter with a four-yard run and followed with a 41-yard hookup with Alonzo Russell for a score. Other drives ended for reasons not Owens’ fault. Left tackle Josh Hendershot was penalized for three false starts, all on third down. Bernard Reedy and Dwight Macon dropped third-down passes in the first quarter, depriving the offense of early momentum.

"I feel T.O.’s taken most of the heat because of how the media portrays it," running back David Fluellen said. "Being the quarterback, naturally, that’s who you look to for a win or a loss. Quarterback’s the captain of the team. In reality, we all believe in T.O. because he can get the job done. He’s done it before. He’s proven it in the past. What we need to do is get around T.O., build his confidence back up, and get ready for the next game."

DETMER HONORED: Jeremiah Detmer was named Mid-American Conference West special teams player of the week after kicking three field goals in the 38-23 loss. Detmer, who is 5 for 5 this season, is tied for sixth in NCAA history with 22 straight makes — a streak that started Sept. 29, 2012. He needs one more make to match Alex Steigerwald for consecutive field goals in UT history.

Detmer converted Saturday from 24, 46, and 41 yards.

HISTORIC DAY: It is believed David Fluellen is the first player in program history to total 100 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards in the same game. Fluellen turned the trick with 17 carries for 111 yards and 10 catches for 100 yards.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.