One week after lamenting its stunning misfortune at losing its second and third quarterbacks to injuries, Maryland learned Sunday that its fourth quarterback — Caleb Rowe — tore his anterior cruciate ligament and will also miss the rest of what has turned into a bizarre season for the Terps.
The injury to Rowe in the fourth quarter of Saturday's Boston College loss means the Terps have exhausted their true quarterbacks and will turn to Shawn Petty, a 240-pound linebacker who ran an option attack in high school, to start at the position Saturday against Georgia Tech.
“He's athletic, he's strong,” said Tom Green, Petty's high school coach at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt. “Like most freshmen, it's going to be difficult for him. If they limit how much he does, dummy it down a little bit, he'll figure it out.”
Petty will be backed up by freshman tight end Brian McMahon (Atholton).
“I don't know if something like that has ever happened to a team at this position,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said after describing how Rowe, a promising freshman, suffered the left-knee injury on a third-down play but told the coach he was fine and remained in the game. Edsall said the ligament tore away from the bone and that the player probably faces surgery and a five-to-six month recovery period.
Maryland led 17-13 when Rowe went back to pass on third-and-12 near midfield. Unable to find a receiver, he headed for the sideline and was tackled just as he went out of bounds.
Rowe paused before getting up and remained in a kneeling position, staring at his left knee. He then walked to the bench and was examined by the training staff.
“I saw it because he came out of bounds right where I was, and I said to him, ‘Are you OK?' And he said, ‘Yeah,'” Edsall said.
Edsall noticed there was some blood on Rowe's shin — it's not clear why. “What Caleb said is, ‘Oh, it's just my shin,'” the coach said.
Rowe remained in the game and threw an interception on the next series as Boston College won, 20-17.
Rowe was smiling after the game as he talked to reporters about his hopes for the season's final four games. Asked about his habit of getting up quickly after tackles, Rowe said: “I don't like them thinking that they hit me hard. I can handle it.”
Rowe also said Saturday: “I wasn't really thinking. ‘Don't get hurt, don't get hurt.' I was out there having fun and playing my game.”
Rowe's knee was sore when he woke up Sunday, and he had a magnetic resonance imaging test that confirmed the injury.
Rowe's first career start came a week after freshman Perry Hills was lost for the season to a torn ACL and Devin Burns, a redshirt sophomore, endured a serious left foot injury. Hills had taken over in August after presumptive starter C.J. Brown's ACL injury sidelined him before the season.
Rowe attemped 42 passes — more than might have been expected of a first-time starter. He completed 23 for 240 yards and had two touchdown passes. But he was intercepted three times.
Maryland (4-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) remained two wins shy of becoming bowl-eligible with four games remaining. Two of those games are against top ACC teams Florida State and Clemson.
Asked how the team responded to Rowe's injury, Edsall told reporters: “Pretty much unbelievable, probably just like you guys.”
But he said he had faith in Petty. Petty texted Green, his former coach, to tell him he might be Rowe's replacement.
Petty's specialty is the run option. “We ran a Navy-style option [in high school], but he did pass,” Green said. “We were probably a 60-40 run-pass [ratio]. He missed two games with a foot injury but passed for 1,200 or 1,300 yards.”
Green said he asked Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley months ago whether he might be interested in trying Petty at quarterback.
“They didn't feel comfortable then, but I guess due to injuries they have to give someone else another opportunity,” Green said.
McMahon played quarterback for former Terps offensive lineman Kyle Schmitt at Atholton. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound freshman picked Maryland's walk-on offer over Johns Hopkins.
“Athletically, I think he’s a Division I athlete,” Schmitt said told The Sun in February. “And I told him if he played tight end for us, I really think that he would be at least a 1-AA type of kid, or a Division I type of athlete. That wasn’t what was best for us. But he runs a 4.6, he power-cleans 300 pounds, bench presses 300 pounds. He’s only going to get bigger and stronger. I really think he’s got a great upside as an athlete. It was the best move for him.”
Edsall said Rowe was worried he had let the team down by getting hurt. The coach said he told the quarterback: “You didn't let anyone down.”
“I feel awful for Caleb. I know how excited he was to get his opportunity to be the quarterback of this team,” Edsall said in a written statement. “Caleb has a bright future ahead of him and we will do everything we can to support him through the rehab process."
Note: Edsall said Sunday that Maryland will use two field-goal kickers in games, depending on the situation. He said freshman Brendan Magistro (C. Milton Wright) will kick up to a distance of 35 to 40 yards.
“If we've got to go further than that, then Brad [Craddock] would be the guy,” Edsall said. Craddock, also a freshman, has missed kicks shorter than 40 yards in each of the past two games. Overall, Craddock is 8-for-14 this season and has missed two extra points. Magistro has converted his only attempt, from 28 yards.