- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 12, 2004

Maryland quarterback Joel Statham’s jitters disappeared yesterday, along with any question whether he can lead the Terrapins.

No. 23 Maryland thumped Temple 45-22 before 51,292 at Byrd Stadium as the Terps (2-0) scored on their opening four series before reserves let the Owls reduce the deficit. Statham complemented a sterling running combination of Sam Maldonado and Josh Allen by throwing two touchdowns while operating the offense almost flawlessly.

It was a complete reversal for Statham, who fumbled four times and threw an interception in Maryland’s opening 23-20 victory over Northern Illinois. The sophomore wasn’t rattled by Temple’s steady blitz and even freelanced a touchdown pass in the left corner while throwing for 201 yards by halftime. Statham finished 18 of 25 for 268 yards in three quarters.

“Joel played like we’ve seen in practice,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “He played with more confidence. He benefited from last week’s game.”

Said Statham: “All I had to do is be more decisive. I felt a lot more confident. I was more mentally prepared. Last week I had a little bit of jitters.”

Maryland will seek its first 3-0 start since coach Ralph Friedgen’s 2001 debut season when it visits No.10 West Virginia (2-0) on Saturday. The Terps are 4-0 against the Mountaineers under Friedgen, including a 41-7 Gator Bowl victory Jan.1.

“Our first offense and first defense improved over last week,” Friedgen said. “Hopefully, it will build a little momentum. West Virginia will be a real test to see where we are.”

Facing the weakest team on its schedule, Maryland overwhelmed Temple (0-2). The Terps’ starting defense contained Owls quarterback Walter Washington despite losing middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson with a hyperextended elbow in the second quarter. Jackson is expected back against West Virginia.

Temple was so inept offensively that it once committed four straight penalties after crossing midfield for the only time in the first half. Temple managed just one touchdown against Maryland’s starting defense and that only after it recovered a fumble at the Terps’ 45.

Maryland alleviated pressure on Statham by alternating Allen and Maldonado on consecutive series early. Maldonado gained a career-high 106 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns. Allen added 39 yards on 12 carries with one touchdown before aggravating a sore shoulder before halftime.

But Statham didn’t need their help to move the Terps. He came up with several big plays. He hit receiver Jo Jo Walker for a 12-yard touchdown on the opening drive and later had a 19-yard keeper, as well as a 43-yard pass to receiver Steve Suter. He also added a 14-yard touchdown pass to receiver Derrick Fenner before halftime.

“We tried to force him to throw the football, but we gave him easy throws,” Temple coach Bobby Wallace said. “Then he got into a rhythm and threw some really excellent passes. He’s growing as a quarterback.”

Nearly everything Maryland tried offensively worked in the first half. After Statham led the team to a touchdown on the first series, Maldonado scored on a 1-yard run for a 14-0 lead. Allen capped the third series with a 5-yard touchdown run. Statham found three different targets on the next drive with Fenner’s 14-yard score on a broken play giving Maryland a 28-0 lead 3:54 before halftime.

Statham made his first serious mistake on the opening third-quarter possession when he fumbled after a 12-yard run. Temple relied on Washington’s scampering throughout the 45-yard drive before he scored on a 5-yard run.

Maryland countered with a drive worthy of a season highlight film. After Suter’s 32-yard kickoff return that he nearly broke, Maldonado opened with a 21-yard run. The Terps later offset three penalties with tight end Rob Abiamiri’s 16-yard catch and Fenner’s 35-yard reception. Maldonado scored on a one-yard plunge for a 35-7 lead with 3:30 left in the third quarter.

The Terps pulled most of their starters in the final moments of the third quarter as the student section emptied. Heralded freshman quarterback Jordan Steffy’s fourth-quarter debut included a dazzling 14-yard run, though he completed none of his three passes. He was the first Terps freshman to play quarterback since Latrez Harrison in 1999.

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