- The Washington Times - Friday, October 22, 2004

Maryland quarterback Joel Statham definitely will start against Clemson tomorrow at Death Valley after backup Jordan Steffy missed practice yesterday with an undisclosed injury.

Coach Ralph Friedgen declined to discuss injuries and Steffy is barred from speaking to the media aside from postgame interviews. Steffy watched practice while wearing an orange medical jersey while Sam Hollenbach handled second-team snaps. Steffy was bothered by a sore arm earlier this season and had taken more snaps over the last week.

Maryland (3-3, 1-2 ACC) and Clemson (2-4, 1-3) both desperately need wins to remain in bowl contention. Friedgen and offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe were reluctant to start Steffy in a pressure road game where 81,474 mostly hostile spectators might unnerve the freshman. Steffy relieved Statham in the third quarter of two straight losses but completed just six of 16 for 44 yards.

Statham’s road experience before 61,000 at West Virginia on Sept.18, plus improved practices, helped him keep his starting job.

“I just told him, ‘If you play like you practiced [yesterday] on Saturday, we’ll be OK,’” Friedgen said. “I remember having the same talk with Scott McBrien [last season]. Joel seems more comfortable for some reason.”

Statham didn’t commit any turnovers the last two games after seven interceptions and five lost fumbles during the Terrapins’ 3-1 start. However, Statham completed just 12 of 25 for 56 yards in two defeats as Maryland managed just 10 points and 172 yards combined.

Although the Terps’ offensive problems extend to a battered line and underperforming receivers, their quarterbacks have been unable to produce big plays. The longest completion over two games was 15 yards.

“It’s not going to be a drastic [improvement],” Friedgen said of tomorrow’s game, “but we’re starting to see some things we didn’t see before.”

Starry eyed

Center Kyle Schmitt has played two games since suffering a concussion during practice Oct. 5. Getting hit on both sides of his helmet during a drill left him staggering toward the wrong huddle.

“I saw some stars,” Schmitt said. “It was like the TV short-circuited or something. I’m not sure where my head was.”

D-line matures

Overlooked in Maryland’s recent slide is the defensive line’s standout play despite losing two starters to graduation, a third to illness and a fourth briefly to injury.

Maryland is 54th nationally against the run (134.2 yards a game), partly because few opponents test the 22nd-ranked pass defense (174.3 yards). Now the maturing line led by end Shawne Merriman has to stop Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst from scrambling. The Tigers also have four running backs with more than 100 yards.

“The defensive line is getting a little bit smarter,” offensive tackle Stephon Heyer said. “You can’t go too far on a reach block [in practice] because they see what you’re trying to do to bait them. They’re getting more field presence, where the ball’s going, where they’re supposed to be.”

Extra points

Cornerback Domonique Foxworth, guard C.J. Brooks and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson were voted team captains for the rest of the season by teammates. … Heyer (sprained knee) has been upgraded to questionable after running with a brace. … Merriman has been nominated for the Ted Hendricks Award as one of the nation’s top ends. …

Freshman tight end Jason Goode finally might play this week after impressing Friedgen in practices for several weeks. … The first Terps defensive lineman who taunts Tigers center Tommy Sharpe over Clemson’s “finesse offense” will get hit especially hard. “If I get a shot on you, I’m going to take it,” Sharpe said. “Maybe it’s more of a finesse shot. Maybe I’ll be doing the ballet up to him.”

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