SAN FRANCISCO — It's been said by more than one coach that the most important player on the team is the quarterback and that the second-most important player is the backup quarterback.

SAN FRANCISCO — It's been said by more than one coach that the most important player on the team is the quarterback and that the second-most important player is the backup quarterback.

Oregon State and Maryland will bring evidence of that theory to today's Emerald Bowl at AT&T Park because both starting quarterbacks began the season as backups.

That's not the only similarity between Maryland's Chris Turner and Oregon State's Lyle Moevao, both of whom are from the Los Angeles area and both of whom became starters because of injuries to the No. 1 quarterback, then retained their starting jobs through productive performances.

Turner was actually the Terps' No. 3 quarterback in the week leading up to the season opener, but he moved up one spot when backup Josh Portis was suspended for the season because of academic issues.

"Being the backup, you have a pretty good chance of playing," Turner said. "For me, it came against the No. 10-ranked team."

After starter Jordan Steffy was knocked out with a concussion late in the first half of the Terps' fifth game against Rutgers, which was then ranked No. 10, Turner led the team to 20 second-half points in a 34-24 comeback victory over the Scarlet Knights.

Turner then started the remaining seven games, including the 42-35 upset of then-No. 8 Boston College, when Turner completed 21 of 27 passes for three touchdowns with no interceptions.

The team responded to his even-keel, laid-back demeanor, and coach Ralph Friedgen got a kick out of Turner's use of the word "dudes" when addressing his teammates in the huddle.

"That's how I talk: dudes and bros," Turner said.

Turner said his California tendencies tend to stick out at Maryland.

"There are not a lot people like me there," he said.

Coming "home" to California and San Francisco will allow about 40 to 50 friends and relatives to come see him play, and one of those is likely to be Turner's father, who used to be the drummer for the glam metal band Ratt.

Oregon State offensive guard Adam Speer was a high school teammate of Turner's at Chaminade Prep in West Hills (Los Angeles County), and Speer reminded Turner last week that the Beavers have knocked a few opposing quarterbacks out of games this season.

Despite playing high school ball in West Hills, Turner was not familiar with Moevao, who graduated from Torrance High School the same year.

Moevao did not receive any scholarship offers out of high school and what recruiting interest schools had in him was as a defensive end.

After a year of playing quarterback at El Camino College, though, Nebraska and Oregon State took an interest, and Moevao opted for the Beavers.

After barely losing out to Sean Canfield for the starting quarterback job this season, Moevao took over late in the USC game when Canfield injured his shoulder. He has started the three games since, winning all three, and though his statistics are not impressive, his physical brand of play has made him a natural leader.

He's just 5-foot-11, but claims being short is an asset.

"Defenders don't know where your eyes are and you can run around in the pocket and they can't see you," Moevao said.

And when Moevao runs around, he's not just looking for a place to fall.

"I'm not one to just close my eyes and go straight down," Moevao said.

A stocky 226 pounds, Moevao looks nothing like a quarterback, and does not play like one, often looking to run over people when he has the chance.

"Some of it is not very smart," Beavers coach Mike Riley said.

Going head-on into a defender against Oregon caused him to fumble, leading to a Ducks touchdown. But Moevao was unfazed, and his teammates seem to feed off his physical style.

Canfield is healthy enough to play in the Emerald Bowl, but Moevao has won the job and will be the starter.

Jake Curtis covers college football for the San Francisco Chronicle. E-mail him at jcurtis@sfchronicle.com