COLLEGE PARK — — Backup Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien said Wednesday that it was a "one-in-a-million" fluke that led to a fumble on the first play of his college career in the fourth quarter of Monday's 17-14 victory over Navy.
The redshirt freshman came in with the ball at the Navy 16-yard line and the score tied at 14. A botched handoff to Davin Meggett returned the ball to Navy.
"I got the handoff from center cleanly. Honestly, it felt good," O'Brien said. "It was one of those one-in-a-million things that happened to be my first play."
Fans in blog and chat groups questioned why O'Brien would come in for redshirt junior Jamarr Robinson during such a pivotal time in the game.
O'Brien said he was asked by coaches to begin warming up before Maryland took possession of the ball. Maryland coaches didn't know that punt returner Tony Logan would make a 57-yard return to set the Terps up in scoring position.
Coaches said they intended all along to use O'Brien. They stuck with the plan even though the ball was now in the red zone — not, of course, anticipating a fumble.
Offensive coordinator James Franklin said O'Brien wasn't loud enough calling signals. "So they had a hard time [hearing] his cadence," Franklin said.
O'Brien also "didn't look [the ball] completely into the belly," Franklin said. "He was really confident and adamant that he wanted to go back in, but obviously it was a tight game and we couldn't take [a risk]."
Maryland coaches don't usually spend much time on a Wednesday reviewing the previous week's game. But the game was on a Monday — rather than a Saturday — and coaches were not made available to the media on Tuesday because of the short preparation week and the introduction of Kevin Anderson as the school's athletic director. So the media had lots of questions.
Franklin was asked about Robinson's second-quarter interception with the Terps ahead 14-7. While Maryland was running the ball well — 134 rushing yards in the first quarter — Franklin said it was time to catch Navy by surprise.
"We ran the ball so effectively it was the perfect time to set up some play action," Franklin said.
Robinson was under pressure and his pass sailed high. He completed two of five in the game for 11 yards.
"I have no reservations about Jamarr," head coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Trust me, he'll throw the football. We're going to have to throw the ball better if we're going to be a good football team."
Friedgen and Franklin said they would continue to look for opportunities to rotate in O'Brien and redshirt freshman C.J. Brown at quarterback to get the young players game experience.
"I know everyone is trying to make a big controversy about that. It really isn't it," Friedgen said.
The short preparation time for Saturday's Morgan State game has made for an unusual week.
"I haven't watched the [game] tape. I know that sounds crazy," Franklin said. With so little time, he said the focus had to turn immediately to Morgan State instead of methodically breaking down the Navy video.
Maryland said it was asking players to alternate between hot showers and ice tubs this week to prevent lactic acid buildup in their legs.
"It's like playing a doubleheader in one week," Friedgen said of the four-day preparation period.
Tate receives kudos
Coaches singled out safety Kenny Tate (12 tackles and the decisive goal-line stop) for praise.
"I think that was the best game I've ever seen him play," Friedgen said of the former DeMatha wide receiver. "He played with a lot of emotion in this game."
Said Tate: "I hope I'm living up to everybody's expectations."
Ferrera still hurting
Field goal kicker Nick Ferrara has not recovered from a groin injury, Friedgen said. Punter Travis Baltz would fill in again if Ferrara can't play against Morgan State.