Plummer is probably playing out of position at the University of Cincinnati. Without him, however, the Bearcats would likely have been playing out the string long ago.
UC's slender hopes for a postseason bowl trip were extinguished Saturday evening with a 24-17 loss to Southern Mississippi. Fifteen yards from a tying touchdown, Plummer was intercepted in the end zone on the last play of the game.
But it came to that only because Plummer had made it possible. On a day when slick conditions made passing perilous, Plummer was able to find sure footing and steady yardage on the ground. Scrambling alternately by design and desperation, the junior quarterback ran for 133 yards on 18 carries, and eight times earned first downs with his feet.
''Our best weapon,'' said UC coach Rick Minter, ''continues to be Chad Plummer running.''
Plummer at the Improv
Saturday, Plummer's running was UC's only reliable weapon. Persistent rain made the ball hard to handle, dangerous to throw, and compromised receivers' ability to make sharp cuts at Nippert Stadium.
UC's offense was consequently limited largely to Plummer's improvisation, and his reckless disregard of personal safety. Few quarterbacks at any level are better suited to this sort of game. Quarterbacks are typically graded on their accuracy. Chad Plummer's game is making people miss. He stands 6-foot-3, weighs about 223 pounds, and owns an upper body that might have been cut from marble.
''He has the running style of a running back,'' said UC fullback Landon Smith. ''He's just as fast a runner. He's just as elusive. I just can't come up with a difference between his running and our running. It's 'Get the ball and head North.' Once Chad gets going, if he's decided he's not going to get stopped, he'll run over you.''
The QB to fear
Usually, when a quarterback abandons the pocket, his coaches look on anxiously, fearing that he will be besieged by overzealous tacklers. With Chad Plummer, the fear factor is minimal. In Saturday's game program, he was listed as larger than Southern Mississippi middle linebacker Marchant Kenney.
''I played receiver in high school,'' Plummer said. ''I'm used to running the ball. I'm not used to sliding (to avoid tacklers).''
If Plummer's passing were as refined as his running (he completed only 8-of-31 passes Saturday), the pro scouts would be salivating. Barring a sudden surge in accuracy, Plummer will likely resurface as a tight end or wide receiver in the pros. Or he might be moved to the defensive backfield, as once was Brig Owens, previously UC's ranking running quarterback.
Saturday marked the third time Plummer has run for more than 100 yards in a game at UC, breaking the school quarterback standard Owens had set in 1964. With two games remaining in the season, Plummer leads UC with 601 yards rushing and accounts for more than half of the Bearcats' total offense.
But for the treacherous conditions, his numbers might have been better still on Saturday. Late in the first quarter, unable to locate a receiver, Plummer ran 24 yards untouched by the defense, only to slip and slide on a wet patch of artificial turf for ''seven yards of grief.''
It might have been Southern Mississippi's only chance to stop him.
''When I was running, I just saw end zone,'' Plummer said. ''I think I could have scored a touchdown.''
He sat there a moment in a small puddle and turned his head to the sky in frustration. Chad Plummer could not stop the rain, and he did not beat Southern Mississippi, but he puts on a pretty good show. Tim Sullivan is an Enquirer columnist.