- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach probably will start against Wake Forest on Saturday, although coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday he won’t rule out injured backup Jordan Steffy until today.

Hollenbach’s rapid rise from fourth-stringer to Maryland’s season-finale starter comes after Joel Statham was benched following three interceptions in a 55-6 loss to Virginia Tech on Thursday. Steffy suffered a concussion in the game, and third-stringer Ryan Mitch was suspended for violating a team rule.

Hollenbach impressed Friedgen in his late stint against Virginia Tech, completing five of eight passes for 53 yards and leading one drive for a field goal. His playing time came largely against the Hokies’ reserves, but Hollenbach showed unexpected poise after throwing only one pass all season.

“Sam has to lighten up,” Friedgen said. “He has to let the game come to him. He’s let that happen in practices recently.”

Hollenbach worked with the starting offense, completing a two-point conversion against the first-team defense to open practice. Hollenbach previously had taken only 10 snaps a week with the starters but looked comfortable with them yesterday. He was unavailable for comment because Friedgen bars quarterbacks from talking to the media except for postgame interviews.

Steffy’s return is a long shot, but Friedgen wants to see whether he can practice today before making a final decision. Steffy is the expected front-runner to start next year, and the Terrapins (4-6, 2-5 ACC) would like him to gain some experience. However, they’re unwilling to risk his health.

Saying it was “time to give somebody else a chance” after losing five of six games, Friedgen no longer could tolerate Statham’s continued poor play. He has fallen from the ACC’s leading passer after four games to eighth with 15 interceptions and eight touchdowns. In the last six games, Statham had eight interceptions and one touchdown, while the Terps scored more than seven points just once.

However, Friedgen wouldn’t dismiss the idea of Statham playing in the finale or competing for the starting job next year.

“His time will come again,” Friedgen said. “I haven’t given up on Joel. I don’t think he’s given up on himself.”

The Terps are so thin at quarterback that senior safety Chris Kelley joked about being an emergency backup in his final game. He switched to defense last year after coming to Maryland as a highly rated prep passer.

“If they need me, they know I’m ready to go,” Kelley said. “Coach [Charlie] Taaffe knows I’m ready.”

The Terps won’t make any dramatic lineup changes otherwise as Friedgen plays for a victory rather than giving underclassmen token experience.

“It’s not a meaningless game,” Friedgen said. “It’s a big difference between 4-7 and 5-6. Winning the last game, whether it’s your last game ever or last game of the season or at Byrd [Stadium] stays in your memory. Winning helps carry us into the offseason.”

Notes — Receiver Drew Weatherly (concussion) and center Robert Jenkins (sprained shoulder) will be out against Wake Forest. … Center Kyle Schmitt and kicker Nick Novak will play in the Gridiron Classic on Jan.15. Guard C.J. Brooks is invited to the East-West Shrine Game on Jan.15. …

Kelley’s bid for a sixth season under medical hardship could be decided by the NCAA on Dec.1. … Defensive end Shawne Merriman’s coat drive for the homeless will be held before the men’s basketball game against UNC Asheville on Dec.12 at Comcast Center.

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