- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 10, 2004

A loss and a quarterback controversy might plague Maryland’s football team for the rest of the season.

The No. 23 Terrapins’ 20-7 loss to Georgia Tech yesterday before 52,733 at Byrd Stadium left Maryland (3-2, 1-1 ACC) facing a critical quarterback decision entering its toughest stretch of the season.

Coach Ralph Friedgen said he’ll consider starting Jordan Steffy against N.C. State on Saturday after the freshman relieved Joel Statham early in the second half against Georgia Tech. Friedgen had spent the last two weeks defending Statham’s erratic play over the opening month, but the sophomore completed just six of 14 for 36 yards with two fumbles before being lifted.

“Joel just couldn’t do anything right,” Friedgen said. “I just thought we needed a lift. If [Steffy’s] in there, he’s got to perform. I think he can perform better than he did [against Georgia Tech], but he got us back in the game. I don’t think this game is all on quarterbacks. They’ve got to get some help, too.”

Friedgen called the team’s play “horrible” and the worst he has seen in “a long time.” as Maryland scored its fewest points at Byrd in his four seasons. The Terps’ 13-game home winning streak ended with just the second College Park loss in the Friedgen era.

“They totally outplayed us,” Friedgen added. “We got outcoached, we got outplayed, we got outhit, we got outhustled.”

Both Statham and Steffy declined postgame interview requests, but a short-lived quarterback competition during the preseason appears to be revived. Statham couldn’t adjust to Georgia Tech’s persistent blitzing while Steffy made some plays on the run. Steffy completed five of nine for 38 yards, and the two quarterbacks lost 34 yards on 15 carries between them.

“I think [Steffy] has a good chance of getting in,” said Friedgen, who will review the game film before deciding who starts against N.C. State. “Whether we go to him, I don’t know if he’s ready for that, but we’ll see.”

Quarterback might not be the only change. The Terps revamped their kickoff coverage for Georgia Tech and even moved defensive end Shawne Merriman to tight end for two goal-line plays. Now Maryland could rework the offensive and defensive lines. While Friedgen spoke of waiting for young players to mature, he doesn’t want to concede a rebuilding season.

“I’m going to do what I’ve got to do to win football games,” he said. “If that means changing people, firing coaches, doing what I’ve got to do …

“I don’t know if that’s necessarily the answer, but I’ll really evaluate this film. I may not have an answer, but I know I have some situations where it’s going to take time to get better.”

After the Terps played three nonconference games and ACC doormat Duke, Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-2) was supposed to foretell Maryland’s future against a coming “murderer’s row” lineup that includes games at Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

“I told the kids [beforehand] this would be a real test to see where we are,” Friedgen said. “If this is where we are, we’re in trouble. We have to get a lot better than this if we’re going to get to a bowl game.”

Certainly, the flat effort surprised players following a two-week break. The Terps’ defense and special teams were respectable, but the offense gained just 81 yards compared with 684 in the 55-21 victory over Duke on Sept.25.

“It’s frustrating,” guard C.J. Brooks said. “I thought we worked hard. We had a bye week and were rested up. If we had raised our level a little bit …”

Georgia Tech followed its repeated blitzing from last season’s game to beat Maryland for the second straight time. The Terps got only 91 yards from running backs Josh Allen and Sam Maldonado, who scored Maryland’s only touchdown on a 2-yard run with 11:28 remaining on a drive that needed two third-down penalties to continue.

Maryland’s offensive woes were so bad that punter Adam Podlesh matched his earlier nine punts in four games while averaging 49.8 yards, including a career-best 59-yarder.

After not gaining a first down in three of its first four series, Georgia Tech suddenly found gaps in Maryland’s pass defense. A 45-yard field goal was negated by an illegal shift penalty, but Georgia Tech followed with 10 points on its final two first-half possessions.

The Terps entered intermission blanked for the first time since losing 7-3 to the Yellow Jackets last year. Maryland is 4-9 under Friedgen when trailing at halftime.

Georgia Tech led 7-0 on receiver Nate Curry’s controversial 11-yard touchdown catch. Curry appeared to push Maryland cornerback Domonique Foxworth before grabbing the ball while falling out of the end zone. However, the Terps gained a break on the following drive when Curry bobbled an end zone pass and Georgia Tech settled for a 19-yard field goal.

The Yellow Jackets found their running game to open the third quarter. P.J. Daniels scored on a 12-yard run for a 17-0 lead after gaining 39 yards on two runs. Maryland stopped Georgia Tech one series before the Yellow Jackets added a 27-yard field goal for a 20-0 margin.

Note — Receiver Steve Suter became the ACC’s career leading punt returner on a 12-yarder in the first quarter. He later had another 12-yard return, giving him a total of 1,211 to surpass the 1,191 by N.C. State’s Ledel George from 1990 to 1993. Suter also had a 52-yard kickoff return.

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