It's just like 2007, except the part where it's not.
Once again, the Cougars have an ongoing quarterback controversy playing itself out over the course of the season. However, the answer seems less clear cut than it did back then. In '07, freshman Case Keenum battled sophomore Blake Joseph for the job. For his part, Keenum seemed infinitely more comfortable in the pocket, and just generally looked like a quarterback. Joseph was notoriously incapable of handling a pass rush, but had a stronger arm. Keenum simply ran the offense much better, but this was the "Art Briles is a demi-god" phase in Cougar fandom, so if Art keeps running Blake out there, we reasoned, there must be something to it, right?
Obviously, hindsight is 20-20, and in 2010, our fuzzy vision is based on about a game apiece of true freshmen David Piland and Terrance Broadway. Here's what we've seen so far:
The bad: A couple of stare-downs of receivers in the Mississippi State game led to a couple of picks, including the interception return for a touchdown at the end of the first half that put the game out of reach. His 30-for-57 completion ratio was less than ideal, but this was based on a lot of balls thrown away when MSU's pass rush beat the Cougar O-line, and the Houston receiving corps (sans James Cleveland) didn't present any good options.
The good: He put a lot of passes in receivers' hands. There were a number of Cougar drops that made Piland's final numbers not indicative of how accurate he was. He showed good pocket awareness, and didn't take any sacks. Aside from the picks, he did a good job of going through his progressions.
The bad: Broadway has looked nervous in the pocket on occasion. He took five sacks against Tulane, a far less talented defensive front than Mississippi State. Broadway connected on 19-of-28 against the Green Wave, but pass accuracy was an issue on balls thrown downfield. It's also worth noting that Broadway had the benefit of a run game that was consistently moving the ball effectively, as opposed to Piland, who got zero help on the ground.
The good: He has you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it speed. Even against top competition like UCLA and Mississippi State, there have been defenders who thought they had a bead on Broadway, but just got outrun. Despite his passing troubles against Tulane, his touchdown throws against the Bruins and Bulldogs came on two of the prettiest fade passes I've seen from a Cougar quarterback in some time.
So here's the part where I suggest that the Cougar coaching staff might be best served to use both quarterbacks, and the part where the Cougar fan base starts (continues?) to think that I am an idiot.
I'm not suggesting that we have another situation like '07, where the starting job was won and lost every couple of quarters. But why not just announce that you're going to a two-quarterback system for the time being? Why not give opposing defenses two different looks to gameplan for?
One of the big fears whenever you have a quarterback controversy is that if you change starters from one game to the next (or within a game) you'll end up hurting a kid's confidence. You don't want your QB worrying that he's gonna wind up on the bench if he throws a pick. But if you tell both guys that they're both going to play, coming out of the game becomes just the other guy's turn, instead of a permanent benching.
Ultimately, it's better to settle on one quarterback. I'm not suggesting that Piland and Broadway share snaps for the next three and a half years. But practice can only tell you so much. In practice, Blake Joseph was as good a quarterback as Case Keenum*. But guys react differently when the lights come on. Both of these guys deserve a chance to prove themselves in game situations.
*As an afterword, please don't take this article as an attack on Blake Joseph. He's a talented individual, and a team player. When it became clear he wasn't going to win the job back from Keenum in '08, he moved to receiver to find a way to help out the team. I have nothing but respect for him.