Friedgen in no rush to name his passer

Terps coach says Steffy to play more, but Statham may still start after loss

October 11, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

He stayed up late, watching the tape, and after a few hours of sleep, he went back to his office so he could watch it again.

But even after repeatedly viewing Maryland's 20-7 loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday, Terps coach Ralph Friedgen still wasn't ready to make a decision yesterday - at least publicly - about who will be his quarterback this week when Maryland faces North Carolina State.

"I have to sit down and talk with my staff," Friedgen said. "We haven't come to any conclusions yet. There's a lot that goes into that decision, and whether or not we'll change I don't know right now. I'll probably let [the media] know on Tuesday."

This much is certain: Getting bogged down in a quarterback controversy is not something Friedgen wanted to be doing as now-unranked Maryland begins the toughest part of its schedule.

But, like it or not, that's what he's now faced with - and may be faced with for the rest of the season - after he and offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe chose to yank starter Joel Statham in the third quarter Saturday, and replace him with backup Jordan Steffy.

"It wasn't all Joel's fault," Friedgen said of Statham's performance, which included two fumbles and 6-for-14 passing for 36 yards. "It was a team effort. We didn't play well offensively at a lot of positions."

Steffy did lead Maryland to its only score of the game, a 2-yard run by Sammy Maldonado in the fourth quarter, but Maryland finished with just 81 yards on offense and Steffy's final three drives netted negative 35 yards.

"I don't know if we're going to make a change," Friedgen said. "I do think regardless of what we do, Steffy needs to play more. We need to get him progressing. But we put a lot of work into Joel, and we thought he was advancing. He had a bad night. One bad night does not make a season."

Friedgen didn't rule out playing both quarterbacks next week against the Wolfpack, and said that even if he did go with Steffy, the decision wouldn't be permanent. He did, however, say that Steffy's limited grasp of the offense would force the Terps to scale back their attack considerably. Friedgen said Steffy sometimes doesn't remember how many steps to take on his drops, and he called one play to the wrong side Saturday.

"We have to sit down and figure out if we cut back, can we still be good enough to be successful," Friedgen said. "Jordan's still not there yet. Don't get me wrong, he's way, way ahead of where most freshmen would be, but it isn't far enough. I do think that if he plays, he'll get better. He'll learn under fire. ... He did change the momentum of that game, and that's what quarterbacks have to do. They have to come in and make plays."

Fair or unfair, plenty of people in the stands voiced their opinion on the matter against the Yellow Jackets, booing Statham at the start of the third quarter and cheering when Steffy entered the game.

"I think in some ways that's unfair to Joel," Friedgen said. "But that's the way it is at quarterback. Lot of times you get too much praise and a lot of times you get too much blame. It's something he'll have to deal with and fight through. ... Joel came into the game leading the conference [in total offense], so he had to be doing something right before this."

Friedgen admitted he was frustrated after the loss, but said his comment about "changing people, firing coaches" wasn't serious.

"I'm very happy with the coaches I have," Friedgen said. "I feel very lucky to have the staff I have."

There weren't a ton of positive things to focus on, but Friedgen said he did feel like his defense played well except for one drive in the third quarter when P.J. Daniels carried the ball three times for 51 yards, scoring a touchdown to put the Yellow Jackets up 17-0.

"The defense played well. They were just on the field too long," Friedgen said. "I thought Shawne Merriman played a very good game last night. He continues to get better and better. William Kershaw had maybe the best game of his career. There's a lot to be pleased with on defense."

Friedgen also said Merriman would continue to play some tight end in goal line situations. The junior defensive end made his debut there Saturday after practicing with the offense during the week.

"We weren't happy with the people who were playing there before," Friedgen said.

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