COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Caleb Rowe's first start of the season as featured four touchdown passes, 21 completions and 297 yards in the air.
Stack that against his three interceptions and three fumbles, and the deciding factor in assessing his performance came down to this: Maryland won.
With Rowe leading the way, the Terrapins overcame a variety of mistakes Saturday in a 35-17 victory over South Florida.
Rowe was named the starting quarterback in the wake of a 21-point loss to Bowling Green last week. Despite mishandling the ball at times, the junior provided enough big plays on his 33 passes to help the Terrapins (2-1) finish with 411 yards in offense.
"He did some very good things out there," said Maryland coach Randy Edsall, a Susquehannock High School graduate. "But as a quarterback, you can't throw three picks. Those picks led to their points. And some of the things in the huddle weren't as crisp as they needed to be. So there's still a whole lot of things he needs to do to get better."
Rowe knows this. But after tearing his ACL last year and starting this season on the bench, he was delighted just to be part of a winning effort.
"It's not about individual numbers if we get a win," Rowe said. "I'm expected to throw touchdowns. I'm expected to not throw interceptions. I've just got to play better, be smarter with the football and make better decisions."
When he gets over lamenting the interceptions and the fumbles — all of which Maryland recovered — Rowe will savor throwing touchdown passes of 12 and 22 yards to Avery Edwards, connecting with Taivon Jacobs for a 70-yard score and hitting Kenneth Goins for a 1-yard TD.
His teammates were appreciative of his work, especially in light of last week's debacle against Bowling Green.
"I think Caleb played great," Edwards said. "He was poised, he was making decisions, everyone was confident in him. And he led us to a victory."
The Terrapins won in spite of Rowe's difficulty holding the ball and while being penalized 12 times for 120 yards.
South Florida (1-2) also had its share of miscues — including two turnovers, a dropped potential touchdown pass, a holding call that wiped out a touchdown run and a personal foul penalty that erased a fourth-quarter first down when the score was 28-17.
"I thought our guys would play better than we did," coach Willie Taggart said. "We left a lot of opportunities out there. We left a lot of plays out there, and we had a lot of costly penalties that killed some drives and cost our football team. In all, we just didn't play winning football."
Quinton Flowers went 10 for 19 for 60 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. He was replaced for a series in the fourth quarter by Steve Bench, who was 0 for 3 with a pick.
The game turned late in the first half after South Florida used a 12-play drive to get a field goal and close to 14-10.
Starting at his own 34 with 52 seconds left, Rowe completed passed of 10 and 49 yards to Levern Jacobs. On first-and-goal at the USF 2, Rowe botched a pitch to Brandon Ross, who picked up the ball and took it into the end zone with 10 seconds remaining.
Maryland opened the second half with 45-yard kickoff return by Ty Johnson. Five plays later, Edwards made an excellent over-the-shoulder catch of a Rowe pass in the end zone for a 28-10 lead.
That was enough to assure the Terrapins a much-needed victory in the wake of last week's defeat. Rowe finished that game by throwing two interceptions in relief of an ineffective Perry Hills.
Starting from the outset in this one, Rowe picked up where he left off. Maryland's opening drive ended when Devin Abraham returned an interception 42 yards, setting up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Flowers to Rodney Adams.
Rowe bounced back to direct a 59-yard drive, capped by a TD pass to Goins. Then, on the last play of the quarter, Rowe connected with Jacobs deep on the right sideline for a 70-yard score.
South Florida botched a chance to pull even when Adams dropped a long pass after slipping behind the secondary. It was the first of many miscues by the Bulls, who were coming off a 34-14 defeat at Florida State.
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