The Washington Times - December 24, 2008, 01:41PM

A number caught my attention during Monday’s teleconference with Nevada coach Chris Ault, the sort of stat that coaches love because it highlights the predicaments they’ve stumbled into over the course of a year.

“We’ve had 42 different players start for us this year,” Ault noted before venturing into how the Wolf Pack dealt with one of their biggest injuries – the loss of tailback Luke Lippincott.

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I took a look through the game-by-game starters and came up with 36 for Nevada, which plays Maryland in Tuesday’s Humanitarian Bowl. Toss in one kicker and two punters, and the number is 39 starters.

Which isn’t 42, but it’s still a lot.

Or so I thought.

I ran the numbers on Maryland and came up with … 41. Toss in a single punter and kicker, and that number rises to 43.

Which also isn’t 42. It’s more.

And, amazingly, it’s far more than 31 (33 counting specialists) needed for Maryland last year when seemingly everyone got hurt.

One difference, though, is how many one-shot deals there were this season – quick fixes or oddball formations that came and went without too much flux.

Consider this: Eleven Terps made at least one but no more than two starts this year:

* RG Jack Griffin (Delaware)
* QB Jordan Steffy (Delaware)
* LB Chase Bullock (Delaware)
* LB Rick Costa (California and Eastern Michigan)
* S Antwine Perez (California and Eastern Michigan)
* TB Davin Meggett (Eastern Michigan)
* TE Lansford Watson (Eastern Michigan)
* DE Jared Harrell (Wake Forest)
* FB Taylor Watson (Virginia Tech)
* WR Emani Lee-Odai (Boston College)
* CB Jamari McCollough (North Carolina and Boston College)

Last year, only two Terps – Bruce Campbell (Clemson) and Rick Costa (Georgia Tech) – fell into that category. The underlying reason? The injuries were long-term, and the replacements filled starting roles for a long time.

The lesson here is a raw number of starters isn’t the best way to evaluate how many problems a team has endured. Was it a pain that Da’Rel Scott and Cory Jackson and Darrius Heyward-Bey and Terrell Skinner got nicked up for a game or two? Sure. But making do with a short-term replacement on several occasions sure beat trying to come up with long-term solutions on half as many injuries.

Patrick Stevens