- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Because of Joel Statham’s erratic early season play, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen yesterday sacked interviews with his sophomore quarterback.

The No. 23 Terrapins (2-1) are still seeking some offensive consistency as they prepare for Saturday’s ACC opener against Duke (0-3) in Durham, N.C. Statham threw two touchdown passes in a 45-22 victory over Temple on Sept.11 but had four fumbles and four interceptions combined in the two other games. His three interceptions against West Virginia were instrumental in Maryland’s 19-16 overtime loss Saturday.

Friedgen barred predecessor Scott McBrien from talking publicly the week before games against the Mountaineers the last two years. McBrien was a transfer from West Virginia, and Friedgen didn’t want added pressure on him. Friedgen believes such a break helps his passers concentrate.

“I’m going to take Joel off the circuit from talking just to help him through this period,” Friedgen said. “It’s a growing period. It’s a learning period. Right now, he doesn’t need to be distracted. I did a similar thing with Scott McBrien. He underwent some growth, too.”

Statham has completed 39 of 67 passes for 545 yards and three touchdowns. He has improved since a shaky start in the 23-20 victory over Northern Illinois on Sept.4 but conceded making “stupid plays” against West Virginia. Now he will face a Duke defense that is the ACC’s worst in pass efficiency, eighth against the pass and 10th in scoring.

“I do appreciate and enjoy Joel’s perseverance,” Friedgen said. “He’s growing. He’ll get better. Right now he needs to focus on getting better and not worrying about everything else. I’m trying to get a young man focused so we can play the rest of the season.”

Friedgen has no plans to bench Statham but said he would like backup Jordan Steffy to play some in coming weeks. Steffy, a freshman, played the fourth quarter against Temple.

“I’d like to see Jordan improve his practices right now,” Friedgen said. “It’s leveled off a little bit. If he continues to grow in practice, he could look forward to see more time in games.”

But, Friedgen said, teammates haven’t lost confidence in Statham.

“For the most part, Joel knows what he did wrong,” offensive tackle Stephon Heyer said. “He knows you can’t make mistakes like that. You have to bounce back. All of us believe Joel has Scotty [McBrien]-like qualities at times and can do the job for us.”

Friedgen met with his players at midfield before practice, telling them they can’t afford to fall to 2-2. Friedgen knew his youngest team might be his most challenging in his four seasons at the school but not for lack of desire.

“I still see the effort. I still see the enthusiasm,” he said. “They’re going to get better because of this. They know I don’t take losing very well. As long as they play hard like that, if we lose the game we lose the game. Can we play better? Yeah. Can we play harder? I don’t think so.

“When the Duke game’s finished, I want to be 3-1, not 2-2. I don’t care where we start, how we finish, as long as we get it done.”

Notes — The Terps are practicing with the simulated crowd noise even louder than normal. The Terps were troubled by noise at West Virginia, with some offensive players lining up incorrectly or missing the snap count.

“The windows from the [nearby] dorms were probably vibrating, but we seemed to do a better job in the two-minute drills,” Friedgen said. “The only way to experience it is to be in that environment and deal with it.” …

Defensive end Kevin Eli (concussion) was limited in practice, and defensive tackle Justin Duffie (Crohn’s disease) sat out. Running back Josh Allen practiced without the “yellow jersey” safeguard for the first time in a week after a recent shoulder injury.

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