- The Washington Times - Monday, October 18, 2004

The midpoint of the season has just passed for the Maryland football team, and yet there are more questions surrounding it than there were before the season began.

Of course, most of the questions are pointed at the offense.

The Terrapins (3-3, 1-2 ACC) scored just 10 points combined in their last two games — a 20-7 loss to Georgia Tech and a 13-3 defeat to N.C. State on Saturday. The once unstoppable offense that gained 685 yards against Duke on Sept.25 hasn’t surpassed 100 in the last two games. The quarterback controversy — Joel Statham or Jordan Steffy — hasn’t materialized because both players have performed poorly. Meanwhile, the offensive line doesn’t have one healthy starter.

The Terps need to get well quickly on offense or their offseason will come sooner than expected.

With three road games and two ranked opponents in the next month, Maryland’s freefall shows no sign of ending as it prepares for a trip to Death Valley to face Clemson (2-4, 1-3) on Saturday.



“I wish I could just wave a magic wand and make this thing start happening,” Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said. “In my career, period, I don’t think I’ve ever had two games like that back-to-back. There may be more unless we get something going.

“How can you go from close to 700 yards total offense against Duke and not have 100 against Georgia Tech and N.C. State? How do you fall that fast? To me, that’s the question.”

Friedgen knew the youngest team in his four seasons in College Park would be vulnerable, especially without a veteran quarterback. The defense and special teams have remained strong, but Maryland’s offense appears rudderless.

What’s even worse is the three losses in four games have stripped the Terps of their swagger, which came from winning two bowls and an ACC championship in the previous three seasons. The Terps overcame poor starts the last two years, winning 10 of their last 11 in 2003 after opening 0-2. However, the veteran players who helped turn around last season are gone.

“We were concerned about how we would face adversity,” center Kyle Schmitt said. “The [past] teams were much more experienced. This team is struggling with that right now. We’re not handling when times get tough. We have to pull the young guys up.”

Said Statham: “[Frustration is] pretty high, especially from my standpoint. The last two games, we pretty much beat ourselves. We’re all frustrated. You don’t know where to turn to. Hopefully, next week we’ll find the answers.”

Statham admitted his confidence has been shaken since he has been pulled the last two games for Steffy. After leading the ACC in two passing categories and ranking second in another after the Duke game, Statham was booed at Byrd Stadium on Saturday. Not as many fans were voicing their displeasure at the end of the N.C. State game. Nearly half of the homecoming crowd, obviously disgusted by the Terps’ performance, left early.

“I wouldn’t say [confidence hasn’t diminished] because I would be lying,” Statham said. “It has a little bit. Jordan’s a great athlete. Everybody’s seen that.”

Steffy also has done little in two relief appearances. The freshman was one of seven for 6 yards against N.C. State and was sacked three times because he held on to the ball too long. Statham completed six of 11 for 18 yards so it no longer seems to matter who the starter is. Friedgen said the quarterbacks were even, but added Statham has a slight experience edge that could help him at Clemson.

“That’s all I’ve got. What do you want me to do — manufacture one?” Friedgen said. “I have two kids that are growing.”

Quarterback play isn’t the offense’s sole concern. Injuries on the line is a big reason why running lanes aren’t opening and blitzes aren’t being countered. Running backs Josh Allen and Sam Maldonado aren’t creating much running room on their own and receivers aren’t make the tough catches. There is plenty of blame to go around.

“There’s something different every play,” Schmitt said. “It’s not one guy or one position. It feels like every yard we’re getting we’re working hard to get. It’s like the defense is on to us. We just need a big play — a completion downfield, somebody breaking a tackle. It’s just not happening right now.”

Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson refuses to surrender and pointed out the Terps rebounded from a 7-3 loss at Georgia Tech last season to win their final five games against solid teams.

“We feel we’re not out of it no matter what others think,” he said. “We just have to find a way to win like we did last year.”

Note — Offensive tackle Stephon Heyer (dislocated kneecap) is doubtful for Clemson. He’ll have an MRI today. Defensive end Shawne Merriman (sprained ankle) and Maldonado (sprained shoulder) are probable.

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