- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 25, 2003

Injured Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien should return for the next game against North Carolina a week from today, but the Terrapins also will spend the final month of the season readying freshman passer Joel Statham for 2004.

McBrien suffered a concussion midway through the second quarter of Thursday night’s 7-3 loss to Georgia Tech but is expected to work out Monday. The senior remains the starter, but coach Ralph Friedgen yesterday said Statham would see increased time in the last four games.

“I think we have to look ahead,” he said.

Maryland (5-3, 2-2 ACC) missed a chance to control second place and a Gator Bowl berth. Instead, the Terps could be headed to the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Dec.22.

Maryland gets a breather against North Carolina (1-6, 0-3) for homecoming before closing against bowl contenders Virginia, N.C. State and Wake Forest. The Terps need three victories to reach a prominent bowl and a sweep to avoid their worst season in Friedgen’s three years.

“We have a decision to make — we either want to be 9-3 or we can be 5-7,” Friedgen said. “We have to play better than we did [against Georgia Tech] or the worst is going to happen.”

The Terps’ five-game winning streak ended with their worst offensive performance of the season and second fewest points ever under Friedgen. The poor showing surprised many players, especially after Friedgen called the preceding week following a bye the best series of practices during his tenure.

“Over the past two years, we haven’t been the team that loses late in the season,” guard Lamar Bryant said. “We’ve always been able to run off wins.”

McBrien told Friedgen on Monday that this would be the week he finally translated strong practices into a breakthrough game. McBrien has steadily improved this year but is nowhere near what the Terps hoped.

After earning Peach Bowl MVP honors during a 30-3 victory over Tennessee last season, McBrien hasn’t hit the deeper passes regularly and has completed only 53.4 percent with five interceptions and six touchdowns. While injuries have limited the offensive line and running game, McBrien hasn’t shouldered the added burden.

McBrien was only four of 11 for 47 yards with one touchdown against Georgia Tech before leaving with six minutes remaining in the second quarter. However, he didn’t remember playing the final two series after sustaining the concussion. McBrien finally left after being tackled hard on an option run.

Backup quarterback Orlando Evans also will return after missing his second straight game, this time as a suspension for violating team rules. Maryland has appealed to the NCAA for a medical hardship season for Evans that would give the senior another year, but the Terps won’t know the outcome until after the season.

The uncertainty surrounding Evans forces the Terps to prepare Statham. Friedgen maintained he would have played Statham over Evans anyway, but who will be the backup against North Carolina is undecided.

Maryland’s struggle to rout lightweights Eastern Michigan and Duke earlier this season cost Statham extensive relief time and left him less prepared for emergency duty against Georgia Tech. He completed 10 of 22 for 110 yards with one interception but was lucky several other passes weren’t also picked off, and his fumble set up Georgia Tech’s winning touchdown. Still, Friedgen wasn’t downcast over Statham’s performance.

“Joel was put in a tough situation and kept his poise,” Friedgen said. “The fumble comes when he’s trying to make something happen. He’s what we’re looking for as our quarterback. I’m not disappointed with him. He needs to learn to read coverages better, but as he matures I’m sure that will happen. I thought he did OK. He made some big plays, but unfortunately he gave up some.”

Said Statham: “I should have read the defense better than I did. It’s getting slower now that I’ve been around, but they sent the house every time.”

Maryland’s loss wasted another standout defensive effort. Georgia Tech gained only 228 yards, including 98 passing. The Yellow Jackets’ two longest drives came after they took a 7-3 lead with 14:10 remaining after recovering a Terps fumble at Maryland’s 18. Georgia Tech completed only 12 of 28 passes and converted five of 16 third downs.

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