Jason Herold is Exhibit A for the case that a football team reflects the fortunes of its quarterback.
A senior from Riviera Beach and Northeast High, Herold spent his first three seasons at Bowie State establishing a reputation as the best punter in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. He also practiced with the quarterbacks, but it was strictly waiting for a rainy day stuff.
That emergency came on Sept. 14. The Bulldogs' offense was sputtering for the second straight week, and Herold was told to play quarterback for the first time in his college career. He came to the rescue, keying Bowie State's only victories and nearly pulling out another, but Herold and the Bulldogs have since struggled.
Bowie State celebrates a special homecoming tomorrow (1 p.m.) against American International. The Bulldogs of coach Sanders Shiver have played their last five games on the road, but Herold and company don't think it's too late to reverse records that have dipped to 2-5 overall, 1-5 in the CIAA.
"I'd be real happy with wins in our last two games," Herold said. "Considering where we are now, a 4-5 finish wouldn't be bad at all. That would take care of some of the frustration we're feeling right now."
Herold is as dissatisfied as any Bowie State player. He didn't play in last week's 24-7 loss at Elizabeth City State, having been suspended for one game by the CIAA for what the conference claimed was his role in instigating a brawl at Norfolk State.
"There were about three minutes left, and I was put back in the game for a trick play," Herold said. "After getting a pitch back from [running back] Butch Wilson, I apparently stepped out of bounds. As the referee was blowing the whistle, I was swamped by two people right on our sidelines.
"The player on top of me was talking trash and sticking his elbow up under my facemask. I pushed him off, I came up screaming, and the next thing I knew 150 green jerseys were running across the field. It might not have been a late hit, but I was already frustrated and I don't know why the ref took so long to break us up."
The final score that day was 35-13 and was Bowie State's second straight clunker, following a 41-9 blowout at nationally ranked Virginia Union. Herold completed only four of 20 passes for 58 yards in those two games, well below the numbers he posted in his first three games. In wins over Hampton and Virginia State, and a 19-14, last-minute loss at Virginia State, he was 32 of 69 for 442 yards and four touchdowns.
Herold hardly looked like a quarterback rookie, but offensive coordinator Harry Lentz said his inexperience remains a drawback.
"Jason still has trouble reading defenses," said Lentz, who coached Herold in baseball at Northeast. "He could've been a good college quarterback, but we recruited him strictly as a punter."
Herold quarterbacked Northeast, but he gained more high school all-star notice as a punter, beginning with his sophomore season in 1985, when he averaged over 42 yards. He and kicker Mark Fitzpatrick entered Bowie State in the fall of 1988 and promptly solidified the Bulldogs'special teams.
Bowie State went to the NCAA Division II tournament in 1988 and won the CIAA the following year, when Herold was the all-star punter. He led the conference in punting last season, but the Bulldogs slumped and Winston-Salem's Raymond Harvey was the coaches' all-star choice. Herold's current average is 35.7, and he admits to distractions.
"After a hard series of plays at quarterback, I'm out of breath when I drop back to punt," said Herold, who's lefthanded and also punts from that side. "I'm playing in high-tops now, and that means I can't wear the special kicking shoe I've had since my sophomore year. That's a bummer."
Herold, who also holds when Fitzpatrick does the place-kicking, actually wishes the conflicts had come earlier.
He began practicing at quarterback as a sophomore, but other recruits were always pushed to the top of the depth chart. Last year's starter didn't return, and when freshmen Keino Fitzpatrick and Andrew Barone had problems, Herold finally got his chance in the second quarter against Hampton Sept. 14. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-14 victory.
"Before any of the coaches said anything, one of the linemen told me to take some snaps on the sideline," Herold said. "I was still wearing my punting shoe. I didn't have enough time to panic."