It’s happened before. Five games into the 2001 season, coach Bobby Wallace permanently replaced quarterback Devin Scott with fresh-faced rookie Mike McGann. Splitting time until that point, the two quarterbacks had led the Owls to a 2-3 record.
McGann, who had thrown for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 10 of 23 passing against Rutgers, took over against Syracuse the following week with less favorable results. He connected on 11 of 22 passes for 111 yards but did not lead the Owls to the endzone once in a 45-3 loss.
In the eighth game of the 2005 campaign, Wallace is now faced with a similar question. Remove McGann, now a veteran, for freshman Joe DeSanzo?
DeSanzo stepped in for McGann on the Owls’ third offensive series Saturday and moved the ball as well as the Owls have all season. In 11 drives, he completed 10 of 20 pass attempts for 96 yards and no interceptions.
“Joey DeSanzo completed 50 percent of his passes against a Miami [pass] defense that’s ranked first in the country,” Wallace said. “I think anytime you do that against them, it’s an exceptional thing.”
Regarded as the most talented of the triumvirate of freshman QBs the Owls brought in this summer, DeSanzo was slated to redshirt before getting a shot at the starting job in 2006. But McGann’s season-long inaccuracy spurred the coaches to consider getting the Ellwood City, Pa., native some experience against Division I-A competition.
After consulting offensive coordinator Willie Slater and DeSanzo’s parents, Wallace decided to give DeSanzo his first action of his college career.
Going into Saturday’s game at Clemson, though, Wallace said he would not be sure who will line up under center for the Owls until Thursday.
“I don’t really want to comment on it too much,” Wallace said. “Obviously, they will both work this week and we’ll make a decision by Thursday.”
No such problems for Clemson signal-caller
Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst’s 65-yard scamper against Miami in Week 3 may have been an aberration, but it has been enough to keep defenses guessing. In his fourth season as a starter, Whitehurst has connected on 132 of 197 attempts for 1,350 yards passing.
Long runs haven’t been his specialty, but he’s had enough big plays to bring him within 140 yards of becoming the school’s all-time leader in total offense.
“Charlie played as a redshirt freshman, so he’s been through the good, he’s been through the bad,” Bowden said. “There’s not much you can throw at him that he hasn’t seen. He’s won big games, lost big games, come from behind, protected leads.
“His dad played in the pros, so he understands the intangibles of the position, [his] demeanor is cool, calm,” Bowden added. “And he’s 6-5, 220. So I think he’s kind of the complete package as far as what you’d want in a quarterback. Not a great runner, but good enough to avoid a sack.”
A dominant, full-page photo in the Tigers’ media guide shows Whitehurst shaking hands with Clemson President James F. Barker at commencement.
No, it’s not an anachronism. Whitehurst, a four-time academic honor roll student, graduated this past spring. His intelligence translates to the field, where Whitehurst has achieved a career efficiency rating of 121.1.
“He’s started a long time for them, he’s a three-time All-ACC academic guy, and I think he had a 4.0, I read somewhere,” Wallace said. “Very intelligent guy, just a super player.”
No soft spots and no jokes in dangerous ACC
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden knows as well as anybody how the Atlantic Coast Conference was transformed when it morphed with the Big East Conference in 2003-04.
Five teams from the ACC are ranked in the top 25 this week, and two of those are in the top 10 of the Bowl Championship Series rankings. Three of those in position to win the division crowns – Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College – are first or second-year members of the
Traditional doormat Georgia Tech is 4-2, and Wake Forest handed Clemson a four-point defeat Oct. 1. The first five games of the Tigers’ season were decided in the final play.
“Wake Forest to me is the perfect example in our conference,” Bowden said. “Nationally they don’t get a lot of respect, and down here they don’t get a lot of respect.
“All of a sudden they beat us, they got Maryland close [16-10] in the fourth quarter, they’ve beaten BC two out of three years and had them beat this year [leading 30-28 with two minutes remaining],” he continued. “The parity in college football nowadays is really, really tough.”
Kicking game has good Lux
The Temple-Miami boxscore listed senior kicker Ryan Lux as 1 for 2 in field goal attempts, but on a day the Hurricanes seemed a threat to finish every special teams snap in the endzone, Lux was the Owls’ most effective line of defense.
Lux boomed both of his kickoffs for touchbacks, sparing the kickoff team from Devin Hester’s whirling returns. The missed field goal was a 53-yard attempt that curved just right.
For that, Lux was named special teams Player of the Game by the coaching staff.
“They’ve got Hester back their returning kickoffs, and [Lux] kicked them out of the endzone,” Wallace said. “I thought [Hester] was going to bring one out from nine yards deep one time. That scared me. I thought, ‘Please, please stay.'”
“I thought [Lux] got the 53-yard field goal excellent, just a little bit right,” Wallace added. “Then he made the other field goal, so he had a good game. He’s kicking the ball real well, he’s just not getting any opportunities.”
Fulmore returns, ineligible players back in uniform
Four players declared ineligible are now officially back in uniform and back with the team after senior safety Bobby Fulmore made his 2005 debut last Saturday.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Rochester, N.Y., native was listed as the starting strong safety on the preseason depth chart. Prior to kickoff of the Miami game, Fulmore was announced as eligible and played at owl safety. He registered two tackles.
Fulmore, strong safety Justin Johnson, running back Gary Stockman and defensive end JC Braker will play out their seasons. The other five players – if you’re doing the math, Johnson and Stockman were not among the seven announced – are redshirting and should play next season barring any further setbacks.
Ex-Owls progress report
Wide receiver Buchie Ibeh (2003-04) has been promoted from Arena2 League Football to the Chicago Rush, the “big leagues” of Arena Football. … Wide receiver Sean Dillard (1999-2002) saw his first season with the New Orleans VooDoo end before it started. The club will sit out the 2006 season “due to the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Katrina.”