- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2005

The echoes of Florida State’s famous war chant reverberated through the Maryland football team’s practice field this week, a not-so-subtle reminder of the Terrapins’ impending visit to Tallahassee.

It’s a tune Maryland would rather not become intimately familiar with, especially as it braces for its meeting with the 10th-ranked Seminoles today with uncertainty at quarterback.

“I told them [Thursday] if you really like that song it’s not good, because if it’s playing a lot, it’s not a good scenario,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I’ve been down there when it’s played a lot.”

So has Maryland (4-3, 2-2 ACC), which never has won at Doak Campbell Stadium and defeated the Seminoles (6-1, 4-1) for the first time anywhere last season at Byrd Stadium. Quarterback Joel Statham engineered the victory with a 333-yard performance, but he did little more the rest of the season before yielding the job to Sam Hollenbach with one game remaining.

Hollenbach thrived in the first half of this season, and it seemed Statham had experienced his career apogee against the Seminoles before settling in for a two-year stint as a clipboard carrier. Hollenbach, though, sprained his nonthrowing shoulder on Oct. 20 against Virginia Tech and is questionable to start today, leaving Statham as the possible starter at a stadium where opposing starting quarterbacks are routinely terrorized by the Seminoles’ defense and backups usually fare even worse.

Friedgen said he was willing to wait until this afternoon to decide who starts, though he is unwilling to risk further injury to Hollenbach with three games left. Hollenbach spent much of the week receiving treatment to reduce pain and improve flexibility, but Friedgen estimated Hollenbach was at 60 to 70 percent strength in Thursday’s practice.

Statham has played once this season, taking over late in the Terps’ rout of Temple earlier this month. He had nearly as many fumbles (two) as pass completions (three), but the Terps believe they can pull an upset even if Hollenbach doesn’t play.

“All year I’ve said they’re both great quarterbacks, it’s just that the coaches went with Sam,” senior receiver Jo Jo Walker said. “I’m sure Joel can step in and give us a victory and be a great leader.”

While the Terps’ quarterback plans remain jumbled, Florida State’s are clear. Redshirt freshman Drew Weatherford leads the ACC in total offense and already has helped the Seminoles surpass their offensive touchdown total from a year ago.

He has plenty of help. Chris Davis leads Florida State’s usual fleet of speedy wideouts with 409 yards receiving, and 6-foot-6 freshman Greg Carr tops the conference with eight touchdown catches.

Tailbacks Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington provide capable targets out of the backfield as well as solid rushing options.

“He’ll throw it up,” Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson said. “They have a 6-6 receiver and he’s going to throw it up to him and let him make a play. He’s going to put the ball on the money to his other receivers. He’s very good for a redshirt freshman. He’s just making plays. If you throw 50 times a game, I think you’re going to complete some passes. But he’s completing a higher percentage than I’d like to give up.”

A strong outing from Weatherford probably would help eliminate Maryland from contention for the Dec. 3 ACC title game in Jacksonville, Fla., and drop the Terps back to .500 with three games left. Maryland still is two wins shy of clinching a winning season and bowl eligibility, though the Terps would clinch the Atlantic Division title with a season-ending four-game winning streak.

A victory today would be improbable, but it is perhaps more likely than last season’s 20-17 stunner in College Park. That game, atypical in a season filled with disappointing performances, provides hope a better Maryland team can pull off another upset.

“The magic number is four and we have to have it right now,” Wilson said. “This is pretty much all or nothing.”

At least the Terps have an idea of how to approach a top-10 team since they are coming off a 28-9 loss to No. 3 Virginia Tech nine days ago. Friedgen acknowledged some of his younger players suffered from “stage fright” in the Thursday night spotlight, but he believes they will learn from the experience.

Friedgen would like last week’s loss to the Hokies to accelerate his team’s maturation, and simply enduring the depth and speed of highly regarded foes such as Virginia Tech should help Maryland’s preparation for Florida State. If it doesn’t, abrasive music to Friedgen’s ears will be heard frequently this afternoon.

“They better be [prepared],” Friedgen said. “If they’re not ready, it could get ugly.”

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