- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2004

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen knew his youngest team in four years would take time to develop. The Terps’ first loss of the season is part of that process.

The No. 23 Terrapins missed an opportunity to beat a top-10 team for the first time since 1990 in the 19-16 overtime loss at No.6 West Virginia on Saturday. Five turnovers cost the Terps several scoring chances while setting up a Mountaineers touchdown. Maryland’s defense prevented a blowout, but the Terps were often dominated by a veteran opponent.

Maryland (2-1) readies for its ACC opener at Duke (0-3) on Saturday hoping the mistakes against West Virginia won’t be repeated. The Terps had difficulty communicating plays, lined up incorrectly in offensive formations and were pressured into turnovers by the defense. While Duke isn’t known for hostile crowds beyond the nearby basketball arena, Maryland still needs to manage fan noise better before traveling to Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

“All the things we thought would happen, happened,” Friedgen said. “We’ve done it now so the next time we go into this situation we should be better. We’ll get better from this experience. If we don’t learn from it, then it may decide on what kind of season we have.”

Quarterback Joel Statham continued his erratic development. After committing five turnovers in the opening 23-20 victory over Northern Illinois, Statham threw two touchdowns and 268 yards against Temple. However, he tossed another three interceptions against West Virginia. Statham finished nine of 20 for 108 yards.

The Terps don’t have an experienced backup and Friedgen won’t waver on Statham. The sophomore will have to learn through mistakes.

“I look at it as a disappointment, but more as a learning experience,” Statham said. “I’m gaining confidence as I go on. The more I see things the slower they get. Once I get settled in a game it slows down a bit.”

Like the Northern Illinois opener, Statham improved after a bad start. He threw a perfect touchdown pass to Derrick Fenner to tie the game at 10-10.

“It’s going to be a gradual thing,” Friedgen said of Statham’s improvement. “There was a lot of different learning things, not only crowd noise, but a new defense and a pretty good football team, too. The positive thing in Joel is he came back the second half and almost got a win. That shows me he’s resilient and keeps his poise. There’s some real positives there. I know people are not going to understand that, but they’ve never had to coach this. I’m not surprised by some of the things that happened.”

Statham made some poor decisions on his second and third options. While he ran six times for 39 yards, including two standout first downs that were clearly improvised, Statham also threw one interception into triple coverage.

“I don’t want this kid to be gun-shy,” Friedgen said. “I want him to go out there and attack.

“Sometimes he was trying to steer the ball instead of throwing it. You can’t make it too perfect. I think he was trying to make it too perfect.”

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Justin Duffie is considering whether to leave the team because of ongoing problems with Crohn’s disease. Duffie had corrective surgery in June after missing last season with the chronic intestinal ailment. He didn’t play against West Virginia.

“I know how serious the disease is,” Friedgen said. “He was emotional about it. I said ‘Step away for a while. I’ll leave the door open for you. Right now you need to feel well.’ It’s really up to him and his doctor.”

Defensive end Kevin Eli is questionable against Duke after suffering a concussion. Guard Andrew Crummey (sprained ankle) and receiver Rich Parson (bruised back) are probable.

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