- The Washington Times - Monday, October 11, 2004

Maryland won’t name its starting quarterback until tomorrow, but freshman Jordan Steffy will get more playing time this season no matter who opens against N.C. State on Saturday.

Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen remained uncertain yesterday whether to bench starter Joel Statham following Saturday’s 20-7 loss to Georgia Tech. The Terps spent the last six months developing the sophomore passer, whose 10 fumbles and seven interceptions have offset seven touchdowns.

Friedgen won’t readily abandon Statham at midseason for an unproven freshman. Both might even play regularly because Friedgen said the upcoming choice won’t necessarily be permanent.

“There’s a lot to go into this decision,” Friedgen said. “Whether we change, I don’t know. If we cut things back, is it enough to be successful? … In some ways, it’s a little unfair to Joel, but that’s the way it is at quarterback.”

Maryland (3-2, 1-1 ACC) will face five of the nation’s top 15 defenses over the final six games so there would be no easy introduction for Steffy. However, Friedgen liked the spark Steffy provided against Georgia Tech when he led the Terps to their only touchdown in his second drive, which was aided by two third-down penalties.

“Jordan made some mistakes,” Friedgen said. “They’re just young player’s mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, I think Steffy is way, way ahead of where most freshmen would be. It just isn’t far enough. If he plays, he’ll get better. That may be good, but what I don’t want to do is [make him] lose his confidence.”

Steffy even regrouped after calling a third-down play to the wrong side by hitting his receiver across the field. He finished five of nine for 38 yards while Statham was six of 14 for 36 yards before pulled early in the second quarter. Each fumbled twice and lost 34 yards on option carries. The Terps’ 81 yards overall were their fewest since 1996.

“Regardless of what we do, I think Steffy needs to play more,” Friedgen said. “We need to get him progressing, but we put a lot of work into Joel and we think he was advancing and he had a bad night.”

N.C. State coach Chuck Amato also is juggling two quarterbacks after losing Philip Rivers, who was the 2003 ACC Player of the Year, to the NFL. Jay Davis remains ahead of Marcus Stone, though both may play against Maryland. Amato said Friedgen’s decision requires balancing long- and short-term needs.

“You have to put everything on the table and see how important things are for the team,” Amato said. “Do you start all over again with another one? Ralph is the king of the quarterbacks. He’s done such a good job with quarterbacks, and he knows what he’s talking about.”

The Terps clearly need to regain their confidence or a fourth straight winning season and bowl bid will be in jeopardy. Georgia Tech was considered the litmus test for the coming ACC stretch that includes road games at Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech, plus a home game against Florida State. Now the Terps must wonder whether they’re playing for any bowl bid.

“We’re going to find out what kind of team we are,” Friedgen said. “I have a lot of faith in these kids. It’s a young football team, and it’s not like I hadn’t anticipated this. We can still be a good football team. This is still a young football team that is learning on the run and in the end, this year or next year, we’ll be better for what we experienced [against Georgia Tech].”

Said cornerback Domonique Foxworth: “We have to find what we’ve had the last three years again. We’ve lost before and lost early. It’s not that big of a setback. It’s two losses. We’ve been known to go on pretty good runs at the end of the season.”

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