- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — For a quarter, Joel Statham looked like he would lead Maryland to another improbable upset of Florida State. In the second half, he simply looked like the quarterback who struggled through much of last season.

The Maryland backup, pressed into the lineup because of starter Sam Hollenbach’s shoulder injury, accounted for three touchdowns as the Terrapins built a 10-point lead early in the second half.

But he also tossed a critical interception in Maryland’s 35-27 loss to the 10th-ranked Seminoles yesterday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

“That’s one of the things I’ve been working on since last year, and then I have to go off and do it in a critical moment in a game like that,” Statham said.

Statham made his first start since last season’s penultimate game at Virginia Tech, and his play in the opening quarter couldn’t have inspired much confidence. Statham opened with four ugly incompletions and showed more ability to throw it into a crowd of Seminoles defensive backs than one of his own receivers.

That was enough for coach Ralph Friedgen, who inserted Hollenbach late in the first quarter despite his sprained left shoulder. Hollenbach completed his first (and only) pass but didn’t make it through two possessions before he suffered a back injury.

“I had to get all the jitters out,” Statham said. “I got a little upset about myself because we’re keeping Sam out of there to get him healthy and I have to put him back in there when I’m not playing the way I’m supposed to be.”

Yet Statham was magical when he was forced to return in the second quarter, a period that literally had the makings of his 15 minutes of fame. He completed eight of 10 passes for 135 yards in the quarter, finding Derrick Fenner and Jo Jo Walker for touchdowns and scoring another on a quarterback sneak as Maryland took a 21-14 lead at halftime. It was his first touchdowns — both rushing and passing — since he led the Terps to a 20-17 upset of Florida State a year ago today.

“He definitely looked like he wasn’t ready, but eventually he picked everything up and came back and did a good job,” Fenner said. “He was more confident and seemed to be more relaxed.”

But it didn’t carry into the second half. He didn’t complete a pass in the third quarter and managed only 42 yards passing in the half to wind up with a 15-for-29, 177-yard outing that Friedgen tersely described as “OK.”

Two plays proved especially costly. Statham barely overthrew an open Walker in the end zone early in the fourth quarter with the Terps up three before Maryland settled for a field goal. He tossed his lone interception with 7:22 left and the Terps trailing 28-27, and the Seminoles needed only six plays to score an insurance touchdown.

“[My teammates] all told me I fought my butt off today, and the coaches were telling me the same stuff,” Statham said. “We played well enough to win but fell apart at the end.”

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