DeKALB – Generally, if the phrase “It’s so crazy, it just might work” is being thrown around, it’s being used sarcastically or in another insincere manner.
But if NIU decides to roll with situational quarterbacking this year, it’s a plan so crazy it just might work.
During a scrimmage last week, Marcus Childers did what he’s done so many times for NIU in the past. He took off scrambling.
But this time was different. He was running up the middle, and instead of tucking it, he threw it at the last second behind the line of scrimmage. It found Cole Tucker in the end zone after the corner bit, checking to make sure Childers wasn’t actually running.
It was the first of four straight drives in the scrimmage in which Childers led the team to red-zone touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Ross Bowers, a transfer from Cal competing with the former MAC freshman of the year for the starting job, was leading long drives that would stall in the red zone.
Which is why it looks like situational quarterback changes should work for NIU. Bowers starts drives, with Childers coming in for the final 10 or 20 yards or so.
It’s a perfectly common phenomenon in other sports. Defensive substitutions late in basketball games. A bullpen in baseball. An enforcer in hockey, assuming it’s still 1987.
Because inside the 20, Childers was amazing Saturday. Yes, it was a scrimmage. Yes, it’s a limited sample size. But Childers led four straight scoring drives, the first three of which were through the air. He used his legs to set up the pass to Tucker. On the next two possessions, he found Mohamed Toure for scores. The final score came on a run by Marcus Jones, but it was set up by about a 15-yard pass from Childers to Tucker.
On Childers’ first full-field drive, he was intercepted by Adam Buirge, the only interception of the day for either quarterback.
Bowers on his two full-field drives led NIU down inside the 5-yard line. Both drives stalled.
Obviously, a failed drive isn’t only the quarterback’s fault – the second drive failed to get in on a fourth-and-1 because Rondarious Gregory fumbled, with the ball recovered by Michael Kennedy.
Obviously, Bowers had success on red-zone drills. And conversely, Childers led some long drives.
But Childers’ skill set lends himself to these red-zone situations. Starting to scramble on a first-and-10 from your own 20 often is a bad omen, but if you’re doing it from the opponent’s 15, it can create a lot more havoc.
And Bowers has more of a pocket presence and is less of a threat to scramble. Perfect with a big field ahead of him.
When quarterbacks split time, usually it’s a series for one guy, a series for another, as a coach searches for an answer. If you’ve got two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks.
But this isn’t that. The Huskies have two quarterbacks with two different skill sets that can be used in two different situations.
Ross Bowers is the starter on a drive. Marcus Childers is the closer. It plays to their strengths.
It’s so crazy it just might work