Little known fact: Randy Edsall implemented a cage match format for deciding positional battles. Last man standing keeps the job.
A bit too Braveheart? Maybe. But this bohemian system wherein Commisioner Macho Man Randy
Edsall hands each quarterback on the depth chart an unsheathed sword and wails, “Attack!” at the top of his lungs has gotten us to this point. That point is 4-3, and with Caleb Rowe emerging from the battle victorious by effectively huddling in a corner while C.J. Brown, Devin Burns, and Perry Hills duked it out in the center of the ring, I think it is safe to say that we have a good quarterback on our hands. The Dreaded Red-Headed Rowe is our guy. Better still, he is literally our only guy, so as Terrapin fans you must embrace him with open arms a la the popular British saying, “The King is dead! Long live the King!”
Seriously question, though: has any major Division I college football team ever gone through something like this? Losing your starting quarterback, your backup quarterback, your backup backup wide receiver/quarterback, your second best receiver (Marcus Leak), and your third best receiver (Kerry Boykins)? The football Gods are angry at Randy Edsall for whatever reason, and they demand retribution! Will not three downed quarterbacks be enough to halt their blood rage? These are serious questions that you have to ask.
Whatever the Terrapins did to deserve this is beyond me, but it is very clear that bad luck has begotten this team. I just happen to think it is finally over now. Bad things come in three’s, and losing three quarterbacks in one season, for me, means that the Terrapins have a very good chance of finally catching a break. With all that has happened with this team, I think fans are going to be pleasantly surprised at the performance of Caleb Rowe come Saturday. Fan should also take solace in the fact that, amazingly, our chances of beating teams remains largely unchanged despite all this injury. For that, we should be thankful.
Let’s start with what we know about Rowe. For starters, he may actually have a better arm than any quarterback on the roster. I’m not talking about just arm strength, that honor may go to C.J. Brown; I’m talking about possessing an arm that can complete any kind of throw on the field. When I saw him in August, that was what stood out to me about the kid. Perry Hills didn’t make as many errors, and Devin Burns scrambled better, but Rowe looked like the only real quarterback out there. He completed passes down the middle of the field into tight windows, hit receivers down the sideline in stride, and had enough zip on all of his balls that you had to think he might be in the lead for the quarterback battle. Don’t believe me? Ask wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who said Rowe can make “kind of like NFL throws that you don’t see too often.”
I was actually surprised when he didn’t win the quarterback battle in the first place, but clearly Edsall saw something that we did not. I think he may have wanted to redshirt him, knowing that with another year of watching football at a higher level, his knowledge of the game would increase and help him eliminate mental errors that true freshmen tend to make. That does not make Rowe a bad passer, though. A guy who tossed for over 7,600 yards and 78 touchdowns in only 31 games in high school is someone who can probably throw the ball pretty well. Just look at some of his highlight films if you want, you can see exactly how versatile he is. He reminds you a bit of, as much as I do not want to say it, former Terrapin quarterback Danny O’Brien. A young kid who can hit all the throws necessary to keep the chains moving and the passing game functioning. He is 6’3, 210 pounds and stands tall in the pocket. Just in terms of looking the part, Rowe gets the nod over the other quarterbacks (Perry Hills looked like a full back at times when Wes Brown stood next to him).
We also know that Rowe is probably going to be running the same offense that Perry Hills ran, which is a good thing from a familiarity standpoint. The coaching staff will make all the pre-snap reads for him, and all Rowe will need to do is not throw directly to the other team. I do think, however, that Rowe is going to be doing a lot more, shall we say, improvisation of his own. Hills was great because he did exactly as he was told by the coaching staff, with very little adjustment made on his part. He looked receivers down (for better or worse) and ran the play that was called somewhat effectively.
With Rowe? I have a feeling he is going to want to take a few more chances. It is in his nature, which can be both a good and bad thing. Because he has a better arm, he knows occasionally he can chance it and make some throws into tight spaces with defenders all over the place. That’s understandable and good, but it is also a double-edged sword because those passes are ones that get picked off and taken to the house. I expect that with Rowe, because until he learns otherwise through experience, his natural instincts are going to kick in.
I’m honestly excited for those natural instincts to kick in, because up to this point the Terrapins offense has been horrible. I am optimistic because, really, it can’t get a whole lot worse than the status quo. The Terrapins are 98th in the nation in points for at 21 a game, meaning this offense would have a hard time scoring on Kim Kardashian. If Rowe wants to take some chances, then he should be encouraged to do that, because the Fischer-Price offense that Hills was running was boring as heck. Seriously, what else do the Terrapins have to lose at this point? Run every play out of the shotgun against Boston College for all I care, I want to see some creative thinking on Locksley’s part to get this offense revved up.
Speaking of Boston College, they stink like sourdough. The Terrapins are going against the worst team in the ACC (thank God!), so there really was no better time to lose your starting quarterback. The defense he is going to be facing is a step up from what he went against in high school, but not by that much. If he played in any high school All-Star games, then he may actually have gone against more talent. It’s sad, but it’s also somewhat true. The speed will be different, but Rowe has a good chance to have a great game against these guys (much like Hills did against West Virginia). It’s his first game, but I expect him to fill in effectively against such a bad opponent, especially when he should be bolstered with a monster rushing game by Wes Brown.
Another break the Terrapins catch, and this is of course provided that Rowe doesn’t get hurt against Boston College, is that they get yet another bad defensive team in Georgia Tech next week. Rowe is going to face off against two of the worst teams in the league, and have a chance to really exploit some defenses provided he actually goes into the film room and does some serious studying. Georgia Tech’s offense is going to be scoring, so Rowe will have ample opportunity to play catch/keep up with that ground game menace. I look forward to that one as well. The odds of winning at Boston College and against Georgia Tech have remained virtually unchanged. They were always going to be close games, whether Hills or Rowe was starting.
As for the rest of the schedule: Did anyone really think we were going to go to Clemson and win before the injury? How about downing Florida State at home? The last game is at North Carolina, and I still stand by the fact that that game will continue to be a toss up. The Terrapins will play good teams close every game and likely drop ones to great teams with high octane offenses. As I said before, the odds are unchanged; the quarterback name is just different.
It’s ridiculous that these injuries keep piling up, of course. I sympathize with Edsall and his coaching staff for getting sandbagged at every route, as well as with all the injuries to the players who work so hard all offseason only to have their playing year cut short. But in the same breath, I still think the Terrapins can go out and win just as many football games with Rowe as they could with anyone else on the roster.
If he gets hurt, then I will reevaluate my opinion.