Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 20:09
Observers of this Saturday’s game between the University of Toledo and Central Michigan football teams may be pondering a similar question: who are these guys?
Both the Rockets (1-2) and the Chippewas (1-2) have been bit by the injury bug, especially at the quarterback position.
Terrance Owens is officially listed as questionable for UT’s Mid-American Conference opener after suffering a sprained knee last Saturday in a 33-21 victory over Eastern Washington. He was carted off and returned to the sidelines with a pair of crutches.
“We’re really fortunate with what did occur — the fact that there was no tear or rupture or anything like that in there,” said UT head coach Matt Campbell at his weekly Monday press conference. “[It’s] just a sprain and certainly something that he can come back from. A lot of it just depends on his ability to get back.”
Campbell said that Owens was able to “move around” on Sunday and even ran some, which is a positive sign for his playing prospects. He also said he thinks Owens “certainly has a chance to play this week,” but the task of going from crutches to cleats in seven days could prove too arduous.
If that’s the case, the Rockets will again turn to freshman Logan Woodside at QB, who stepped in for Owens last Saturday and completed 14-of-24 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown, and didn’t turn the ball over.
Woodside graduated early from Franklin County High School in Frankfort, Ky., and joined the team in January to participate in spring ball, getting a leg up on the competition for the backup job.
He lost just three games as a four-year starter in high school.
“We’re really fortunate that we have a guy in Logan that we feel really comfortable with,” Campbell said. “I thought it was great experience for Logan and a great opportunity to get him in a tight-knit football game. It certainly wasn’t in hand and he needed to perform. I thought he did some admirable things in his three quarters.”
When Woodside first traded the headset for a helmet near the end of the first quarter, Campbell admitted he called a more conservative game plan to ease the youngster into the game.
That changed at halftime when Woodside wanted to take some chances through the air.
“I tried to do that on Saturday and he yelled at me on the sideline,” Campbell said with a smile. “At halftime, he just said, ‘Coach, let’s open it up. I’m ready to go and you can trust me.’ Sure enough, he was right. He wants to play. He’s a guy who wants the ball in his hands and wants to make plays.”
Like most freshmen suddenly pressed into duty, Woodside appeared a little hesitant at first. Some of his teammates took it upon themselves to settle him down.
“Me, Bernard Reedy and Alonzo Russell were joking with him a little bit just to lighten him up so he wouldn’t be tense out there,” said senior running back David Fluellen. “You could kind of tell he was a little nervous out there at first, but eventually he loosened up. When we got the signals from the sideline, I was joking with him and said, ‘Hey, what was the signal?’ Just to make sure he remembered.”
Fluellen sat out the entire fourth quarter Saturday with a slight ankle injury. He was on crutches and his left foot was in a walking boot Monday, but both he and Campbell said it was entirely precautionary and Fluellen will play Saturday.
Healthy or not, the Rockets have used four running backs already this season. Junior Cassius McDowell made his first appearance against Eastern Washington coming back from a minor injury.
Redshirt freshman Damion Jones-Moore also made his 2013 debut Saturday and true freshman Kareem Hunt continued to get carries.
Campbell expects all four to see playing time against CMU.
For the Chips, their injury issues are much deeper.
Starting RB Zurlon Tipton broke his ankle in the season opener at Michigan and has been lost for the year. Tipton ran for 1,497 yards and scored 19 total touchdowns in 2012. He was the nation’s seventh-best returning rusher.
His replacement, sophomore Saylor Lavallii, has carried the ball 49 times for 210 yards.
“Certainly the young man they had was ultra talented and this guy certainly has great talent too,” Campbell said. “He runs with great persistence and his run in the New Hampshire game sprung it wide open late in the game.”
Central Michigan will also be without starting quarterback Cody Kater, who will miss at least a couple more weeks with a broken collarbone, also sustained against the Wolverines.
Freshman Cooper Rush, who Kater narrowly beat out for the job in fall camp, will be the starter on Saturday. He has completed 42-of-78 (54 percent) for 591 yards, four TDs and two picks.
The Rockets enter MAC play with the usual goal in mind — win the league title.
“We have to pick the intensity up a bit,” Fluellen said. “We know going into conference play, especially on the West side, we’re going to get everybody’s best shot. We can’t lose a game if we’re trying to get to our goal, which is the MAC Championship.”
Kickoff is set for noon in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
UPDATE: Campbell told reporters after Wednesday's practice that Owens has been upgraded to a game-time decision for Saturday's game.