BusinessAlabama Not Alone With Struggling Passing Game

Alabama Not Alone With Struggling Passing Game


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There are two Saturdays remaining in September, though it can get late early for some teams that are struggling with the passing game.

It is not all on the quarterback, of course, as the offensive line and receivers have to do their job. That said, there are some issues at the quarterback position with the teams listed below, each of which was in need of a new No. 1.


Tyler Buchner struggled mightily in his first start for the Crimson Tide while Ty Simpson at least provided some relief in relief while Alabama’s most experienced quarterback took it all in from the sideline. Such was the dominating storyline of a 17-3 win at USF, a program that has lost 35 of its last 36 against FBS opponents. The game was tied at three late in the third quarter.

Nick Saban switched to Buchner after Jalen Milroe’s uneven, but not bad, effort against Texas. Buchner, a Notre Dame transfer who reunited in Tuscaloosa with Tommy Rees, his OC in South Bend, failed to hit open receivers and failed to find any rhythm against a USF defense that was often torched, especially over the middle, by Florida A&M’s Jeremy Moussa a week earlier in the same venue.

Buchner, by no means was alone when it came to ineffectiveness as the Bulls often blew through and around the Tide’s offensive line in piling up five sacks and eight tackles for loss, completed 5-of-14 for 34 yards. Simpson, who led the game’s only two touchdown drives, was 5-of-9 for 73 yards.

Alabama’s trio of QBs have combined for a pass efficiency rating that is 69th nationally during a 2-1 start.

“We are going to evaluate the quarterbacks that played today and evaluate Jalen Milroe in terms of how he played,” said Saban, following the win over USF. “(We will) decide this week who gives us the best opportunity to be successful as an offensive team.”

Oklahoma State

Led by Mason Rudolph and Spencer Sanders, Mike Gundy has had plenty of high-powered passing attacks in Stillwater. Not this season. At least not yet as three quarterbacks have combined to produce a pass efficiency rating that ranks 120th of 133 FBS teams.

Alan Bowman is the most experienced among a trio that also includes Gundy’s son, Gunnar, and Garret Rangel. Bowman, who threw only 11 passes in two seasons at Michigan after starting his career in impressive fashion at Texas Tech in 2018, is 110th among 112 qualifying quarterbacks in pass efficiency and has not thrown for a touchdown in three games. When something clicks, it has not been for much as his 7.8 yards per completion is 112th and last.

In a 33-7 loss to visiting South Alabama, the Pokes’ first defeat after two wins, the three QBs combined to complete 16 of 35 for only 114 yards.


Phil Jurkovec returned to his native western Pennsylvania for his final season of eligibility and reunited with coordinator Frank Cignetti, Jr., who the sixth-year QB played under at Boston College. Jurkovec’s experience in a Backyard Brawl at West Virginia was forgettable: 8-of-20, 81 yards and three interceptions against a pass defense that ranked 110th. That followed an effort against visiting Cincinnati in which he threw three TD passes, but completed only 10 of 32 passes in defeat.

Jurkovec, who began his career at Notre Dame, is 102nd nationally in pass efficiency for the 1-2 Panthers. Coach Pat Narduzzi is standing behind his quarterback, though Pitt fans are likely wondering when Penn State transfer Christian Veilleux might be given a shot.


Golden Gophers fans got an early look at 2023 last season when Tanner Morgan missed a few games due to injury. That gave Athan Kaliakmanis an opportunity to start, which he did with mixed results. His effort was commendable, though, for a redshirt freshman seeing his first action.

Now in his third season in P.J. Fleck’s program, Kaliakmanis has barely completed half his passes (51.1 percent) while throwing one touchdown and three interceptions for the 1-2 Gophers. It adds up to a pass efficiency rating that is 111th and next to last nationally and an offense producing all of 17 points per game. His rating certainly sagged after completing only 11 of 29 attempts in a loss at North Carolina.

There are opportunities to sort things out as Minnesota travels to Northwestern
and hosts Louisiana before Michigan comes to Minneapolis on Oct. 6. The question, though, is the length of Kaliakmanis’ leash before Fleck considers going to fifth-year backup Cole Kramer.


Tommy DeVito arrived from Syracuse last year and helped lead the Fighting Illini to only its second bowl in eight years. With DeVito having expired his eligibility, coach Bret Bielema hit the portal to procure former Ole Miss backup Luke Altmyer, who attempted 54 passes in two seasons with the Rebels, and John Paddock, Ball State’s No. 1 last season.

Altmyer won the job in camp and has struggled through three games for a 1-2 team. His seven picks (four against Penn State) are tied for most in the nation and have come in only 82 attempts. Paddock looked pretty good (129 yards, 1 TD) against the Nittany Lions in relief. If nothing else, he gave Bielema something to think about before a home date with FAU on Saturday.

East Carolina

Replacing Holten Ahlers, the American Athletic Conference’s all-time leading passer, was going to be a tall order. No secret there. The problem for Mike Houston is that neither Mason Garcia, a fourth-year player who was Ahlers’ primary backup last season, or Alex Flinn have emerged as the go-to guy. In fact, Flinn is last nationally in pass efficiency and Garcia would be last if he had a qualifying number of pass attempts.

True, the schedule during an 0-3 start was tough with a visit to Michigan, a home date against Marshall and a trip Appalachian State. Games against Gardner-Webb and Rice the next two weeks could offer opportunities for one of the QBs to take over the offense.



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