With the season a quarter over, a handful of teams, including Tennessee, North Carolina State and Duke, has turned to two quarterbacks in a quest to find one standout passer. Other programs, such as Maryland and Florida State, have quarterbacks who have received criticism in recent weeks amid their erratic play.

The quarterback position is the only spot on the field where there is always a controversy, said North Carolina State Coach Chuck Amato, who added, "and probably rightly so, because quarterbacks are the focal point."

Amato maintained yesterday that Jay Davis is his starter despite throwing three interceptions in N.C. State's 22-14 loss to Ohio State on Saturday. That said, expect backup Marcus Stone to see some action this weekend against Virginia Tech as well because, as Amato noted, "We're not going to have the luxury of being able to have a quarterback play 51 straight games in four years like we had before" with Philip Rivers.

Amato added: "We're going to continue to work with Marcus and let Marcus get his feet wet. The more competition we have at all positions, the better we're going to be."

At Maryland, Coach Ralph Friedgen has continued to support starter Joel Statham, who has been turnover-prone in two of his three starts. "Most of that [criticism] comes with the territory," Friedgen said. "That's why I've stood behind him and supported him. That's what I have to do."

Duke, meantime, has played three quarterbacks and has not yet named a starter for Saturday's game. Along with criticism, competition also emerges when a quarterback struggles, Coach Ted Roof said.

"We get these guys to check their egos at the door," Roof said. "I'd love to have one quarterback, but someone has to separate himself on game day."

Running Men

In recent weeks, Maryland has handed the ball more to Sam Maldonado in part because starting running back Josh Allen had been banged up with an undisclosed injury.

But even if Allen had been at full strength, Maldonado likely would have received more carries because, as Friedgen said, "They complement each other very well and it keeps people off balance."

Through three games, Allen, who has more burst, has 52 carries for 220 yards, and Maldonado, nicknamed "the Bull" for his hard-nosed style, has 45 carries for 271 yards.

Friedgen is not alone in his reliance on two running backs. ACC coaches said yesterday that the use of two tailbacks has become trendy for two reasons -- maintaining the health of both backs and keeping defenses guessing.

"You can't hardly get through the season anymore with one tailback," Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden. "I think schools don't want to put all their eggs in one basket."

Other coaches believe that NCAA rules have allowed more talented players to sign with a variety of programs, increasing the competition at each position at a number of schools.

"The limitations on scholarships have given more teams quality backs," Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden said. "Miami and Florida State can't get them all, leaving some for the rest of us."

Maldonado and Allen can expect the majority of carries Saturday, when 23rd-ranked Maryland (2-1) faces Duke. Friedgen said Sunday that Allen "hasn't been himself" the past couple of weeks.

The junior has practiced at full strength this week, said Friedgen, who said of Allen's ailment: "I know what it is. I just don't want to tell anyone."

Bowden vs. Bowden

Bobby Bowden and son Tommy Bowden said the annual "Bowden Bowl" has become a lot less enjoyable than it was when it began in 1999, when Tommy was hired at Clemson.

"There's more at stake now," said Tommy Bowden, whose Tigers will face Florida State on Saturday.

Last year, Clemson's 26-10 win against the Seminoles helped Tommy Bowden retain his job. This season, Clemson (1-2) has struggled and still has Virginia, Maryland and Miami on the schedule. Florida State (1-1) also can't afford a loss and another poor performance from beleaguered quarterback Chris Rix.

"For the family," Bobby Bowden said, "it's just not fun. A mother has a son who has to win the ballgame and a husband who has to win the ballgame."

Bobby Bowden feels the situation is similar to last year, when the Tigers entered the game having lost three of their past five games. This season, Clemson is one play away from losing its opener to Wake Forest and being winless.

Happy Returns

Miami's Devin Hester tied an ACC record when he returned two punts for touchdowns in Saturday's 48-0 win over Louisiana Tech. Though the Hurricanes would like to get the ball in Hester's hands more, Miami Coach Larry Coker said Hester will remain on defense at cornerback. "He can play offense," Coker said. "But we want him to be good at one spot." . . .

Duke (0-3) is taking steps to drum up support for its home opener against Maryland. Students will receive an e-mail promoting the game. And Roof, the coach, will eat with some 600 students in the dining room tonight.

Sam "the Bull" Maldonado, above, is now sharing Maryland rushing duties with banged-up starter Josh Allen. Despite three interceptions last weekend, Jay Davis will remain N.C. State's starting quarterback.