Friday, October 25, 2002

Betts finds spot in Miami star's large shadow


Backup QB ready in case of injury to Roethlisberger

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

Besides Miami's 49-0 win, the good news for redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Betts from the RedHawks game at Buffalo Saturday was it led to the first extended playing time of his career.

The bad news was it killed his efficiency rating.

Miami's 49-0 win over Buffalo last week was a mixed blessing for redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Betts.

On the one hand, Betts, the backup to record-setting third-year sophomore Ben Roethlisberger, enjoyed the first extended playing time of his career.

But Betts' efficiency rating, which was an eye-popping 539.20, took a dive after he went 2-of-6 passing for 23 yards and two interceptions in the last 11/2 quarters.

Betts, the backup to record-setting third-year sophomore Ben Roethlisberger, went into the game against the Bulls with an eye-popping 539.20 rating, the result of throwing his only pass of the season for a touchdown on a fake field-goal play in Miami's win over arch-rival Cincinnati October 5.

The rating plummeted to 76.06 while Betts was going 2-for-6 for 23 yards and two interceptions in the last 1-1/2 quarters against Buffalo.

Miami coach Terry Hoeppner said he took some good-natured ribbing from Betts after the game.

"He mentioned it," Hoeppner said. "He said, "I destroyed that. You can forget about that.'"

In all seriousness, the opportunity was welcomed by Betts, whose only pass of the season before Saturday went for a touchdown against the University of Cincinnati on a fake field-goal play Oct. 5.

"It was good, finally getting out there and running plays at quarterback," Betts said "That was the first time in almost two years that I played more than one play at a time. It was good to get out there and get comfortable. I think it will help if I'm needed later on."

Betts is in a situation that demands patience. He's only a year behind Roethlisberger, who is on pace to shatter many RedHawks records.

Unless Roethlisberger leaves Miami early for the NFL, Betts likely won't have a chance to start for two more seasons.

But the 6-3, 206-pound Betts is determined to make the best of it.

That last phrase indicates the tricky situation in which Betts finds himself. He is backing up a quarterback who, if he stays on track, will shatter the Miami record book and finish his career regarded as the greatest in the history of the program. What makes Betts' situation even more interesting is he's only a year behind Roethlisberger, which means he might have to wait two more full seasons before getting a shot at starting - unless the 6-foot-5, 240-pound starter decides to leave Miami early for a shot at the NFL.

"It was difficult last year, seeing how well Ben played," the 6-3, 206-pound Betts said. "He's a tremendous athlete. Things go through your head. You wonder if you made the right choice, but I'd rather be here than starting elsewhere.

"I love Miami. The environment and the academics are tremendous, and it helps to be on a team that you know is going to be a contender every year," he said. "I'd rather be a backup on a successful team than be a starter on an 0-10 team. It's difficult, but that makes it easier."

"Of course, I'd rather be out there. I'd rather be starting than anything, but I understand what my role is. Ben's an outstanding player. I just have to be ready."

Betts built an impressive resume at Vandalia Butler High School, where his exploits attracted the interest of several Mid-American Conference (MAC) schools.

Betts completed 386 of 685 passes for 6,020 yards and 53 touchdowns in his career with the Aviators, including leading Butler to an 11-2 season and the Division II regional finals.

Watching games from the sidelines was an experience Betts had practically forgotten about while building an impressive resume at Vandalia Butler High School. He completed 386-of-685 passes for 6,020 yards and 53 touchdowns in his career with the Aviators, including 160-of-262 for 2,817 yards and 19 touchdowns while leading Butler to an 11-2 season and the Division II regional finals. He was named Division I-II Offensive Player of the Year by the Dayton Daily News and was a second-team all-state pick by the Associated Press.

Betts ultimately picked Miami over Akron, even though Roethlisberger was already in Oxford, following a much ballyhooed high school career of his own.

"I'd never met him, but I'd heard that he was a good ballplayer," Betts recalled. "He was a good athlete. That was pretty much all I knew. I just tried to base my decision more on the school, both the team and the academics."

Betts' exploits attracted the interest of several Mid-American Conference (MAC) schools, and he narrowed them down to Miami and Akron before deciding on the RedHawks.

"They saw me the summer before my senior year at their passing camp," he said. "That's where they offered me a scholarship. They were close to me throughout senior year. I just thought this would be better opportunity academically, and being in the area appealed to me."

Even know Roethlisberger already was at Miami after a much-ballyhooed high school career of his own didn't sway Betts' decision.

"I'd never met him, but I'd heard that he was a good ballplayer," Betts recalled. "He was a good athlete. That was pretty much all I knew. I just tried to base my decision more on the school, both the team and the academics."

Betts, who's majoring in business, used a solid spring practice to put distance between himself and fourth-year junior J.D. Vonderheide in the competition for the No. 2 spot.

Betts thinks his presence helps Roethlisberger.

"I think we kind of push each other," he said. "We work off each other. It's not a competition."

Betts gets almost as many snaps during practices as Roethlisberger, and Hoeppner has seen enough to feel comfortable with his choice.

"Betts came in (against Buffalo) and, overall, played pretty well," Hoeppner said. "I thought he played OK. He needed to do some things better. He's a very intelligent young man. He learns from his mistakes, but he also learns from the good things."

"I told him that I think, in game situations, he's done well," Hoeppner continued. "I told him he's ready to play - and to be ready."



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