Call it an injury bug, call it a curse, call it whatever you choose, but the situation facing Maryland football team’s quarterbacks has zoomed right past bad luck and into the realm of absurdist theater.
Caleb Rowe, a true freshman who began the season as the Terps’ third-string signal-caller, tore the ACL in his left knee during Saturday’s 20-17 loss at Boston College and will miss the remainder of the season, Maryland Coach Randy Edsall announced Sunday.
“It’s very unusual,” Edsall said during a conference call. “I don’t know something like this has ever happened to a team at that position. With this team, they understand and they feel bad for Caleb, but they know we still have games that we want to win. Everyone will have to do their part to contribute a little more and do a little more.”
Rowe, who was prepared to redshirt this season through Maryland’s first six games, received his first career start on Saturday only because Perry Hills and Devin Burns suffered season-ending injuries the previous weekend against North Carolina State. Hills tore his ACL just before halftime and Burns suffered a Lisfranc injury that was announced Thursday.
Add senior C.J. Brown, the presumed preseason starter who tore his ACL during a non-contact drill this summer, to the mix, and that makes four scholarship quarterbacks with season-ending injuries, three of which are ACL-related.
Edsall clarified that Rowe suffered the injury on Maryland’s penultimate play from scrimmage, when he scrambled out of bounds by the Terps sideline.
On third and 12, the ball spotted just inside Boston College territory, Rowe was flushed out of the pocket to his right, hit just shy of the first-down marker and tumbled to the ground. He insisted to Edsall that he felt fine, remained in the game and threw an interception on first down with less than a minute left, sealing Maryland’s second straight defeat. Rowe finished with 240 passing yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions against the Eagles. His 42 passing attempts were a Terps season high.
The injury flared up once Rowe awoke Sunday morning, and an ensuing MRI exam revealed the tear. His surgery date will be determined, but Edsall said the recovery time could be only around five to six months.
“It’s tough on him,” Edsall said. “I talked to him, and he felt like he let the team down. I said, ‘Come on, Caleb. I know you feel that way, but you didn’t let the team down.’ These are things that you can’t control. He went out there, he played, this happened and he didn’t let anyone down. I told him he has a bright future, he’ll be a very good quarterback for us, and now what we have to do is support him and make sure he’s comfortable in his rehab.”
This leaves Shawn Petty, a converted linebacker, and converted tight end Brian McMahon as Maryland’s only quarterbacks. Both Dustin Dailey and Ricardo Young are sitting out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. Edsall confirmed during the conference call that Petty, an Eleanor Roosevelt High School graduate, would start against Georgia Tech at Byrd Stadium this weekend.
“We have complete and full confidence in what Shawn, in what he can do and what he can bring to our team as a quarterback,” Edsall said.
Maryland sits at .500 with a 4-4 record, including a 2-2 mark in the ACC. The Terps will begin a brutal November stretch this Saturday, facing Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina in consecutive weeks, with Petty and McMahon, both of whom played quarterback in high school but only began learning Maryland’s system once Hills and Burns went down last week.
“We’re going to go with what we have,” said Edsall, ruling out the possibility of using other Terps like Stefon Diggs in a Wildcat formation.