- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Maryland quarterback Joel Statham will remain the starter against N.C. State on Saturday, but coach Ralph Friedgen might insert backup Jordan Steffy if the Terrapins falter.

Showing little patience with the first midseason quarterback controversy of his four-year tenure, Friedgen yesterday said fans shouldn’t judge Statham so harshly despite his 10 fumbles and seven interceptions. Terps fans are sharply divided on the quarterback issue in Internet chat rooms Friedgen admitted reading.

“This is what I do,” Friedgen said. “You’ve got to trust my experience of 36 years that I know what I’m doing. That’s how it’s going to work. … You can have an opinion like everybody has, but guess what — it doesn’t matter. I’m going to make that decision.”

The timing is poor for a change anyway. N.C. State (3-2, 2-1) leads the nation in pass defense (112.2 yards a game) and is third in total defense (226.2). Maryland (3-2, 1-1 ACC) later travels to Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech and plays Florida State and Wake Forest at home. Unless the Terps regroup quickly, their prospects of a fourth straight bowl game and winning season are slim.

The lack of a grace period to introduce a freshman passer fuels Friedgen’s reluctance to start Steffy. However, the coach also doesn’t want to abandon Statham after spending the last six months developing the sophomore. Ultimately, balancing the emotional needs of two young players is as important as developing a long-term solution.

“We’re not the Redskins,” Friedgen said. “I’m dealing with kids who are 18 years old [Steffy] and 20 years old [Statham]. … If I make a change too early, I may lose a kid [Statham] that I never get back. Conversely, if I put a guy in who’s not ready [Steffy] I may [cause him to] lose his confidence and never get it back.”

Statham’s job is not secure, though. Friedgen said he’ll look to use Steffy against N.C. State if the score warrants. He might even play Steffy for a series early. Practices also could determine playing time. Ultimately, Friedgen hopes to emerge with two experienced passers for next season.

“I think both of them are going to be very good quarterbacks,” Friedgen said. “They’re in the developmental stage. … It definitely needs to be a competitive situation. The fact that Jordan is getting better [means it’s] getting closer to being a competition. Does Jordan know what Joel knows? No, not yet. But he was able to go in there and make some plays when we needed them and that’s a good sign.”

Statham was pulled early in the third quarter of last week’s 20-7 loss to Georgia Tech after completing just six of 14 for 36 yards with two fumbles. He’s still fourth in ACC passing efficiency (131.6 yards) and fifth in total offense (199.6 yards).

“I think our kids have faith in Joel,” Friedgen said. “When I looked at that [Georgia Tech] tape, if I thought it was all him, then I probably would have done something, but I don’t see that. … I’d like to see Joel go out and get fired up and get some competitiveness. Show the confidence that he has in not only in himself but in his team. I’m hoping he does that this week.”

Steffy led the Terps to their only touchdown on his second drive, which was aided by two third-down penalties on the Yellow Jackets. He was five of nine for 38 yards with two fumbles in his first extended play this season.

“What Jordan did on Saturday, I don’t think he beat Joel out, but he did a commendable drive,” Friedgen said. “Jordan knows he did some things wrong in that game but also did some things very good. I’m encouraged by Jordan. I may play him early just to see how he’s doing. I haven’t made that decision yet.”

Teammates wouldn’t side with either passer. Both quarterbacks were barred from talking with the media.

“I have faith in Joel Statham,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “Everybody around here does. He just has to take his time with things.”

Notes — Senior safety Chris Kelley and tight end Rob Abiamiri will request a sixth year of eligibility after missing past seasons with injuries. The NCAA isn’t expected to rule on the medical redshirts until after the season. … Kicker Nick Novak (virus), guard C.J. Brooks (neck) and tight end Joey Haynos (knee) are probable against N.C. State. Guards Russell Bonham (hamstring) and Brandon Nixon (shoulder) and center Kyle Schmitt (concussion) are questionable.

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