- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien will start against North Carolina on Saturday after practicing yesterday.

McBrien was cleared by doctors after undergoing an MRI for a concussion during last week’s 7-3 loss to Georgia Tech. He participated fully in the workout after limited practice Tuesday, when the team returned from a four-day break.

McBrien didn’t recall playing two series against Georgia Tech after first being injured and then departing when he was hit again. McBrien later was told by doctors a third hit would have ended his season.

“I don’t remember how I went out there,” he said. “We were watching film [afterward], and I don’t remember the plays run or [kicker Nick] Novak missing the field goal. [The concussion] didn’t hit me until I was sitting down on the bench and everything went haywire.”

The Terrapins continue to prepare backup quarterback Joel Statham, who still might play if Maryland (5-3, 2-2 ACC) gains a large lead in its homecoming game against North Carolina (1-7, 0-4). However, the Terps can’t afford an upset loss with three bowl contenders remaining. North Carolina has lost twice by two points and 36-28 at Clemson last week.

“Despite our record, we’re playing well at times, just not well enough to win,” North Carolina coach John Bunting said.

Statham needs to improve on recognizing coverages and not staring at intended receivers and thus tipping off defenders. He threw one interception against Georgia Tech and was fortunate two others were dropped.

“He has all the tools,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “Where he’s had problems is putting it all together.”

Statham had hoped to at least gain some relief work this season. However, he admitted that not knowing beforehand he would play helped during his emergency stint against Georgia Tech.

“If I would have had more time to think about it, I would have been more nervous,” he said.

Certainly, the Terps benefit having McBrien against the ACC’s worst overall defense. Maryland’s offense is only sixth in the ACC after a series of injuries hampered the line, running game and McBrien.

“We’ve had more things happen this year than in the past,” Friedgen said. “A lot of it has been to our offensive line. They’ve been playing through the injuries, but they haven’t gotten to where their technique needs to be.”

Punting along

Friedgen openly figured punter Adam Podlesh would struggle early. Instead, he’s second in ACC net punting (44 yards) and 18th nationally. Podlesh’s distance, red zone accuracy and hang time have been steady as the Terps lead the ACC in net punting (40.6).

Maryland needs Podlesh to neutralize North Carolina’s Michael Waddell, the nation’s leading kickoff returner (31.9) who lacks enough punt returns for his 14.9 yard average to top the ACC.

“Adam’s exceeded my expectations,” Friedgen said. “I anticipated him being nervous and having a few bad games, but he’s been consistent. … [His teammates] didn’t know who he was. They thought he was only a walk-on kicker, but they know who he is now.”

Extra points

Receiver Rich Parson practiced after missing nearly a week with a sprained ankle. However, he’s still doubtful against North Carolina. …

Friedgen said the Terps’ digital film replay has measurably improved the team since its implementation in 2000. Comparatively, Bunting doesn’t even have a computer.

“It’s so important that I told [Maryland athletic director Debbie] Yow I wouldn’t take the job unless I had five stations of digital,” Friedgen said. “We have 28 now. I think it’s the difference in two, three wins a year.”

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