Rowe second local quarterback in 22 years to start for Nevada
Freshman Jeff Rowe stands in the pocket like a veteran. He oozes with the confidence of a veteran. He makes difficult plays look easy like a veteran. Just imagine how good he’ll be when he becomes one.
“Coming into a new program, a new offense, I thought I did all right,” Rowe said after Friday’s annual Blue and Silver scrimmage at Mackay Stadium, which his Blue team won 14-0.
For a kid who played only one season as a starting quarterback in high school and is three years later now a starting quarterback for the University of Nevada, all right is an understatement. As a junior at McQueen, Rowe was Graham Siderius’ backup. As a senior, his only season as a varsity starting quarterback, he threw for 2,059 yards and 27 touchdowns in leading the Lancers to a 12-2 record and the state title game.
The 6-foot-3, 210 pound Rowe played in six games as true freshman for Nevada, completing 17-of-26 passes for 138 yards and one touchdown with a 122.66 efficiency rating.
In Friday’s game, Rowe completed 7-of-16 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t a mind-blowing performance. But unless he chucked the ball into Virginia Street, it didn’t have to be. Andy Heiser, Rowe’s backup, looked good early. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 32 yards but faded quickly. It wasn’t entirely his fault but he didn’t sustain drives, either. He finished with 60 yards passing and completed 9-of-15 passes.
“Jeff going into the scrimmage was the No. 1 (quarterback),” said coach Chris Tormey. “He didn’t do anything to hurt himself. I think going into fall camp he’ll be No. 1 and we’ll keep evaluating him.”
For a school with a history for producing NCAA record-breaking passers, Rowe is next in line. With a solid running game, Rowe could turn into an above average Division I quarterback next season. With an outstanding running game, he could turn into a star quarterback by his senior year. Tormey doesn’t want to go that far–yet. After all, Rowe hasn’t even started a college game.
“Jeff Rowe, I thought he looked good at times,” Tormey said. “He made good progress this spring. Jeff has made some steady progress (through his career).”
Most guys who come out of high school as promising quarterbacks end up as wide receivers or defensive backs or bank tellers in college. The toughest position on the field is only reserved for special players. Rowe is one of them. Barring something major, he’ll be the starter when Nevada opens the 2003 season Aug. 30 against Southern Utah.
That game should begin a three-year run for Rowe, which will then make him the first Northern Nevadan since Chris Ault in the 1960s to lead the Wolf Pack program. Moreover, he’ll be forever known as Nevada’s first native to be its starting quarterback at the Division I-A level. (Jeff Ardito, who was Nevada’s quarterback in 1980, is from Tahoe City. The last time I checked Tahoe City is still preceded by a CA on envelopes.)
Rowe, like Tormey, isn’t getting ahead of himself. He had a string of seven incomplete passes in the second half of Friday’s scrimmage. Any quarterback in the country can do that. But like all great players, Rowe should only be remembered for the passes nobody else can make. In the first half, he had two of them.
In the second quarter, Rowe dropped back and calmly checked off two of his first two receivers, then found a streaking Nichiren Flowers for a 48-yard gain. Earlier in the first half, he placed a tight spiral on Anthony Pudewell’s hip, the one opposite of his defender, who, if any closer to Pudewell, could’ve been his Siamese Twin. Pudewell spun off and completed the 26-yard touchdown pass.
“I just went through my reads and he was wide open,” Rowe’s said of the play with Flowers. “I missed some short passes, though. Of course, I need to work harder like I always do.”
Sounding more like a veteran every day.
Jeremy Evans is a Nevada Appeal sportswriter.