Rowe set to take charge
Jeff Rowe is chomping at the bit.
The University of Nevada sophomore quarterback is counting down the hours, minutes and days until the Wolf Pack play at Louisiana Tech Monday at 10 a.m. (ESPN 2, Radio-630) in the season and conference opener for both schools.
“I’m pretty excited,” said the 6-foot-5 220-pound Rowe after Monday’s practice. “It’s about time I get to concentrate on somebody else besides our own defense. “It’s been a long time since I’ve played in a game. It seems like I’ve been practicing, and practicing and practicing. I am ready to go.”
It has been a long time since Rowe was on the field. He hasn’t played in a game for 10 months since suffering a dislocated shoulder against UNLV on Oct. 4 of last year.
Head coach Chris Ault expects his No. 1 quarterback to have some butterflies, and he knows that Rowe will probably make some mistakes.
“He’ll probably be nervous,” Ault said. “He’ll probably be jittery. So will the seniors. I expect that. It comes back to how you practice and the demands you put on them and then your play-calling.
“We have to eliminate critical mistakes, especially by a quarterback. We are going to make mistakes. It’s going to happen. It’s a matter of, was it a critical play or was it just a mistake?”
The 2003 season was one big mistake for Rowe, who won the quarterback job ahead of junior Andy Heiser and redshirt freshman Travis Moore.
“Last year, in my mind, went about as bad as it could have gone,” Rowe said. “I expected a lot more of myself.”
Rowe, who prepped at nearby McQueen High, lost the job after two horrendous starting performances against Southern Utah and Oregon.
He completed 8 of 13 passes for 85 yards and one score against Division 1-AA Southern Utah before being yanked midway through the third quarter with the Wolf Pack leading 21-17.
It was worse a week later against Oregon. Rowe started again, but went only 3 for 10 passing for 31 yards before being yanked in favor of Heiser again. Rowe demonstrated that deer-in-the-headlights look against the Ducks, and the offense managed just one score in 2 1/2 quarters.
Rowe watched Heiser guide the Wolf Pack to wins over San Jose State and SMU, and then finally got a chance against UNLV when Heiser was lifted after going 2-for-12. Rowe passed for 143 yards before throwing an interception that ended Neveda’s chances at a comeback win.
“That is what sparked me,” Rowe said. “I lost that game for us (with the interception), but there were some things I did good in that game that I saw myself being able to do consistently.
“I learned a lot (sitting out). It gave me a chance to look at things from a different perspective. Getting hurt wasn’t that bad of a thing to happen to me. I learned not to stress, that it’s just football. It’s fun, and that’s how I’m going to play it. I play it well when I’m relaxed.”
Indeed. It’s much easier to think on your feet when you are relaxed compared to if you are uptight. Rowe knows that, and he’s also eager to prove that he belongs, and that the 2003 season was an aberration.
“I need to prove myself on the field,” Rowe said. “I haven’t done that yet. Week in and week out, I need to prove myself on the field and become a leader. I want to be better than last year; to lead the team. To be the guy that everybody expects me to be.
“I really like this offense. It was pretty easy to pick up, and I believe I can be successful in it.”
The mental part of the game is where Rowe admits he needs work. He has the utmost confidence in his ability to make any throw required in Ault’s passing-dominated offense, and he appears to be more confident.
“He’s more confident about the offense itself,” Ault said. “I know when we correct him now, he sees it. He understands. He has to have poise and understand what we’re trying to do out there.
“Physically, he and Travis have fine arms and are fine athletes. I want them to be athletes and do their thing. I’ll tell you the last scrimmage was good. Both quarterbacks did a good job of reading the defense and throwing the ball well. Both Jeff and Travis did a nice job. They need everyday of practice.”
Can Rowe come back and lead this team again, and more importantly does he have their respect?
“I think you earn it (respect) as you move forward in the offense,” Ault said. “You have to lead by example.”
And, a good effort at Louisiana Tech might win back any confidence Rowe lost with his teammates last year.
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281.