Friday, October 3, 2003

Unknown QB has Bearcats' staff guessing


Freshman to start for S. Miss.

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The University of Cincinnati defense knew exactly what it was getting into last week as it prepared for Miami quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

As it turned out, there wasn't much the Bearcats could do to stop Roethlisberger, but at least they knew what they were up against.

This week, with Southern Miss coming to town Saturday, they don't know what to expect from the opposing quarterback.

The Golden Eagles' plan to start true freshman Damion Carter against the Bearcats after his performance in two series at the end of their 38-14 loss to Nebraska last week.

With Micky D'Angelo, who began the season at quarterback, out with a concussion, sophomore Dustin Almond started against the Cornhuskers and completed only four of 24 passes for 68 yards with two interceptions.

Figuring he had nothing to lose, Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower turned to Carter, an 18-year-old who played with the poise of a senior.

Carter led Southern Miss on a 17-play, 92-yard touchdown drive the first time he stepped on the field. He finished 14-of-17 for 143 yards and one TD.

"Two of those incompletions were balls he threw away," Bower said. "You don't see a true freshman do that. He showed me a lot."

Carter succeeded Eli Manning at Isadore Newman High School in New Orleans and now will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Brett Favre at Southern Miss. In fact, when he starts Saturday, he will be the youngest quarterback to start a game at Southern Miss since Favre started at the age of 17 as a true freshman in 1987.

All the Bearcats know about Carter is what they see on tape from those two series.

"That's going to be a challenge for us," said UC head coach Rick Minter, "but we've got to work it to our advantage and say he was in a no-lose situation last week. He could just go out and let it rip."

Both the UC and the Southern Miss coaching staffs will be curious to see how the rookie quarterback reacts when he has a week to think about starting.

"There's a lot of unknowns," said co-defensive coordinator Mike Kolakowski. "What type of game plan will the Southern Miss coaches have? Are they going to keep it controlled and not put the game on his shoulders? As the game wears on, as he gains more confidence, will they expand it? Athletically, he's very gifted. He can run the football. We've got option on our mind."

The UC defense, which was ranked fifth nationally in total defense two weeks ago, has allowed an average of 498 yards in its past two games, with an average of 396 coming through the air. The Bearcats have slipped to No. 61, allowing 361 yards per game.

"They've thrown on us a lot," said strong safety Doug Monaghan. "Our emphasis when we play a passing team is to stop the run and focus on the pass. We've got to contain the quarterback when we face a passing team, and we haven't really done that too well."

E-mail bkoch@enquirer.com




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