Quarterback controversies often take place only in the minds of a fan base. When head coach Kevin Sumlin tabbed David Piland as his starter against Mississippi State on October 9th, he may have never doubted that the Southlake Carroll alumnus was his quarterback of the future. Many amongst the Cougar fan base weren't so sure.
Internet flame wars erupted between supporters of Piland, and backers of other true freshman quarterback Terrance Broadway. When the offense didn't immediately click the way UH fans are accustomed to, isolated pockets of the student section began yelling Broadway's name during games.
Saturday's game took place up in Dallas, and a severe weather delay pushed the game back far enough that much of it was not televised, so many Cougar fans may not have witnessed what took place. I'll summarize for those that missed it - David Piland arrived.
Broadway still boasts an undefeated record as starting quarterback, and has freakish athleticism. I'd be perfectly happy to have him as my starting quarterback, make no mistake. But after Saturday, there's no doubt in my mind. Piland's the man.
Piland has shown that he has the arm to make all of the throws. That was never really the question. While his supporters rushed to compare him to Case Keenum (which is as dumb as comparing every basketball player to Michael Jordan...stop it!), Piland's pocket awareness is, well, Keenum-esque. On 32 pass attempts, he took just one sack. Every other time SMU's formidable pass rush got pressure, he managed to step up in the pocket, keep his head down field, and make a smart play.
The staring down of receivers was gone. Even the subjective argument that the team "just looked better" playing for Broadway was obliterated. The team hasn't played that cohesively and efficiently on the road since the Oklahoma State game last season.
It won't be all candy and giggles for Piland. The guy was playing football against high schoolers a year ago. He's going to have struggles. He won't always play as well as he did Saturday. But he can still play a lot better, too. And on Saturday, he led the Cougars to a higher point total than Texas Tech, TCU or Navy were able to score on SMU's defense.
Just don't compare him to Keenum.
So what's next for Terrance Broadway? There are three obvious options.
A) Broadway transfers. I wouldn't blame him if he chooses this option at season's end. Broadway was the most highly-touted recruit in the most recent class, and it's not as though he has looked incompetent when he has seen the field. After a game filled with offensive frustration against UCLA, Broadway came in and had some success moving the ball. Against Tulane, he led a 42-23 victory. And suddenly, he loses the starting job. Broadway has the talent to command a starting job. If he can't get it here, he ought to be able to find one elsewhere.
B) Broadway continues to play quarterback for Houston. If this year of Cougar football has proven anything, it is that sports are uncertain. It's not set in stone that Broadway will never get a chance to be the signal-caller for the Cougars. In the meantime, the Cougar coaching staff would have the option of finding ways to utilize Broadway to keep opposing defensive coordinators guessing, kind of like the Eagles could do if they ever realized that Michael Vick isn't a starting NFL quarterback. But I digress.
C) Broadway moves to a new position. I mean this in the most complimentary sense possible. I'm not suggesting that Broadway doesn't have the skills to play quarterback - he does. But he also has the kind of jaw-dropping athleticism that doesn't necessarily come along every recruiting class. There are a number of positions on the field where one could imagine Broadway making a contribution.
At this point, one only hopes that the rest of Houston's 2010 recruiting class is as talented as the quarterbacks have proven to be. If so, there are bright days ahead for the Cougar faithful.