Geoff Collins was asked Monday if backup quarterbacks Anthony Russo and Todd Centeio were getting first-team reps this week in practice. Collins laughed at the question during the American Athletic Conference media call and professed his faith in starter Frank Nutile.
Again Tuesday, in his media conference, Collins insisted that Nutile is going to win a lot of games this year. That hasn't happened so far for the 0-2 Owls, who must visit Maryland (2-0) at noon Saturday.
During Saturday's 36-29 loss to visiting Buffalo, Nutile completed 15 of 31 passes for 216 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. For sure, the Owls' problems have gone well beyond the quarterback, but the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Nutile admittedly has not played up to his standards.
"I am still confident," Nutile said Tuesday after practice. "I trust myself, trust my teammates, and I know we will turn it around."
It won't be easy. The Owls are 14 1/2-point underdogs after being favorites in their games against Villanova and Buffalo.
"We have a great opportunity against a great team, a great-coached team with a lot of athletes on that team, to really turn the season around, so we are all fired up and ready to go," Nutile said.
Nutile has completed 52.4 percent of his passes for 401 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The quarterback often gets too much credit and too much blame, but very few teams are consistent winners without well-above-average play at the position.
For sure, the rest of the offense also needs to pick it up. Collins mentioned that against Buffalo, there were seven dropped passes.
The offensive line has been outplayed in both losses. The running game is averaging 3.2 yards per carry, and if a 50-yard run by Ryquell Amstead against Buffalo is subtracted, the average is 2.2.
Last week, Russo got his first college action at quarterback when he and Centeio entered the game for the third series. Collins said it had been determined before the game that this would occur. Both also played a series together in the second half.
If Nutile's struggles continue, there will be a chorus of voices calling for one of the backups.
"I think I have missed some throws and have turned the ball over too much," Nutile said. "I wouldn't say I am trying to do too much. I just think a couple of things didn't go as planned."
Against a Maryland team that has recorded seven sacks, Nutile might face even more pressure than he did in the first two games. He has been sacked three times and chased out of the pocket on several more occasions.