- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 31, 2008

There was quarterback intrigue, an offense struggling to score and an unnecessarily close game against a plucky though undermanned opponent.

Maryland was supposed to unveil a new look Saturday at Byrd Stadium. Instead, it produced something reminiscent of the last few seasons. The Terrapins escaped with a 14-7 victory over Delaware, with both the output and margin reflective of an offense too inefficient to take advantage of an effective rushing game.

So while sophomore tailback Da’Rel Scott ran for 197 yards in his first career start and the Maryland defense impressed for all but one drive, the Terps (1-0) repeated an exercise common in recent years - struggling in their opener, this time with a new offensive coordinator (James Franklin) calling plays.

“We kind of did the same thing with the first game the past three years,” defensive tackle Jeremy Navarre said. “We were happy we got the win, and we know what we have to work on now.”

A new season provides a fresh start for a team, though Maryland seemed to step into the same vortex in which it so often becomes entrapped: flux at quarterback.

Senior Jordan Steffy won the job in camp, just as he did a season ago. But after Steffy authored a 10-for-18 performance with 115 yards, two interceptions, one injured right thumb and audible boos from a disgruntled crowd of 49,119, former starter Chris Turner took over early in the fourth quarter.

Turner was more of a handoff machine than a gunslinger, though he didn’t commit a turnover in his three pass attempts. Meanwhile, change-of-pace Josh Portis gained 10 yards on four carries in his only snaps.

Steffy was unavailable to reporters after the game, though coach Ralph Friedgen said the injury prompted the quarterback change. Steffy spent some time sitting on an equipment trunk on the bench while an athletic trainer examined his hand.

“I knew he was hurting, and he didn’t look like he was able to function,” Friedgen said. “So I put another guy in.”

The onus for Maryland’s scoring struggles could not be placed solely on the quarterback. Senior kicker Obi Egekeze missed three field goal attempts in the first half, all from at least 41 yards.

The Terps ventured inside the Delaware 35 on seven of 12 possessions in the sort of muggy conditions encountered only a couple times all month. On most days - even hot ones - that would be the recipe for healthy offensive production.

For whatever reason, it wasn’t the case against the Blue Hens (0-1) for a team with 22 scholarship seniors that deployed only seven first-time starters in its opener.

“I don’t want to blame the weather,” center Edwin Williams said. “I don’t want to blame not hearing a call. We are kind of past that level right now. We have an old, polished team. We just have to focus in and get those corrections adjusted or fixed come next week.”

Still, there was plenty for Maryland to appreciate. Scott nearly produced the 16th 200-yard rushing day in school history. Freshman Davin Meggett added 52 yards on seven carries, including a 14-yard scoring scamper in the third quarter.

A 14-0 lead seemed safe with the defense containing the Blue Hens to short drives and rare big gains. But a busted play - linebacker Dave Philistin just missed a sack - led to a 31-yard pickup, and Delaware halved the deficit two plays later on Johnathon Smith’s 1-yard dive with 5:20 remaining.

After a three-and-out, Maryland faced a harrowing situation: on the precipice of losing a lead in a game it controlled most of the way.

“It was real scary,” safety Terrell Skinner said. “I was terrified. I felt we had to just knuckle up and just get it done.”

So Skinner did, intercepting Delaware’s Rob Schoenhoft with 3:20 remaining and handing it over to the offense to run out the clock. It was a task the Terps were up to, even if it left them with a too-close-for-comfort score.

And perhaps a reason to pause, though they viewed the game through another prism.

“No concerns at all,” said wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey, who scored on a 12-yard end around in the first half. “I am very confident in my team. Whoever we have to play, we’ll try to play up to our potential and put points on the board.”

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