Created:Thursday, October 27, 2011 5:30 a.m.CDT

Toledo proof dual-QB offenses can work


DeKALB – Tommy Davis doesn’t buy the theory. Never mind if most of college football follows the one-quarterback rule. Northern Illinois’ junior safety believes teams can succeed rotating quarterbacks.

And he thinks Toledo is a good example.

“They’ve proven they can do it two years in a row,” Davis said of the Rockets, who interchange quarterbacks Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens. “They’re having their success. They’re scoring points. And as far as that whole one-quarterback thing goes, it really doesn’t have anything to do with that. Whatever works for your team is going to work for your team.”

Clearly, the two-quarterback system hasn’t hurt Toledo (5-3, 4-0 MAC West), which plays host to the Huskies (5-3, 3-1) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in a critical divisional showdown. The Rockets are second in the Mid-American Conference with 36.5 points and third with 438.4 yards per game, behind MAC leader NIU in both categories. They’ve had equal success with Dantin or Owens.

“It’s working for them,” Davis said. “And we’ve got to try to stop them.”

Unlike most two-quarterback situations, Dantin and Owens are similar players.

Dantin, a junior, leads the MAC with a 150.6 passer efficiency, has 10 passing touchdowns and one interception. Owens, a sophomore, is second with a 149.1 passer efficiency and has six passing touchdowns to two interceptions.

Junior defensive end Sean Progar said Dantin and Owens remind him of Buffalo quarterback Chazz Anderson, who torched the Huskies last week for 404 passing yards, 56 rushing and four touchdowns.

“They’ll both stand up in the pocket and throw the ball,” Progar said. “But they’ll both also, if they don’t see their first option, they’ll get out of the pocket and run. So just like the past few weeks, especially last week, we just have to control the pocket. We can’t let the pocket collapse because, if we do, they’re going to get right around the edge.

“Both of them like to run, but when they run they’re looking downfield to make plays.”

NIU defensive coordinator Jay Niemann said Dantin is a slightly more accurate passer, while Owens is more elusive. Owens, unlike Dantin, is left-handed, so they roll out of the pocket to opposite sides of the field. But both can throw and run.

Niemann said he’s preparing one game plan for both quarterbacks.

“I don’t think we change our defense based on who’s in the game,” Niemann said. “Because we haven’t seen them change their offense based on who’s under center.”

Whether Dantin or Owens receives the snap, Toledo’s offense runs through receiver Eric Page. Davis calls Page the Rockets’ “catalyst.”

“You’ve got to know where No. 12 is, regardless of who’s in the game,” NIU coach Dave Doeren said of the Rockets senior.

With the offense running through Page, Davis said it’s less important who lines up under center. Toledo’s offense is based on screen passes. Neither Dantin nor Owens struggle completing short passes.

“Their weakness is the vertical passing game,” Davis said. “They’re not going to throw too many – well, not successfully – they’re not going to successfully complete too many balls downfield. But they don’t have to because their screen game is so good.”

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?