Turner Gets the Call for Maryland

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By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 4, 2008

Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday that quarterback Chris Turner will start Saturday's game at Middle Tennessee because Jordan Steffy, who started Saturday's season-opening win over Delaware, will miss at least three weeks with a fractured thumb on his throwing hand.

Steffy, a senior who suffered the injury in the second half of the 14-7 victory, has opted to undergo surgery after the season because having it now would end his college career. Friedgen said a ligament and a bone fragment separated from the bone in the thumb.

"Doctors said he couldn't damage it any more," said Friedgen, who estimated Steffy would be out three to four weeks. "It's his senior year, so I'm sure he would want to play if he could."

The unexpected turn of events thrusts Turner into the starting role two weeks after he considered transferring because he lost the quarterback competition to Steffy. Turner, a junior who played in the fourth quarter of the Delaware game after Steffy was injured, described the past two weeks as a "roller coaster, for sure."

"It is definitely hard," Turner said. "It's almost like you didn't earn it, almost like you didn't deserve it. Jordan, it's tough luck again. I don't know what else to say. I have jammed my thumb 1,000 times. It's the worst injury you can have as a quarterback, and it's just a finger."

Turner encountered a similar situation last season, when he replaced Steffy against Rutgers on Sept. 29 after Steffy suffered a concussion. Turner started the season's final eight games and helped the Terrapins beat two top 10 teams (Rutgers and Boston College), and Steffy only saw action in two series against Florida State on Nov. 17.

Friedgen said this week that he has been proud of the way Turner has dealt with not starting and that he has confidence in him as a quarterback. But when asked yesterday how Turner has played in practice this week, Friedgen said, "Okay."

In Friedgen's eyes, Turner's issues primarily have revolved around his consistency in practice.

Turner typically has played better in games than he does in practice, and Friedgen named Steffy the opening-game starter because of Steffy's superior statistical performance in practice in the spring and summer.

But the fans at Byrd Stadium on Saturday booed Steffy, who threw two interceptions and looked shaky for much of the game. In response, Friedgen delivered an impassioned defense of the fifth-year senior on Tuesday, comparing him to a son and promising that he would win a game for Maryland this season. Turner said he heard some of the boos on Saturday, adding: "I don't support that at all. It's not cool and I am a little ashamed of it. I can't control what they do, but I wish they didn't do it."

Steffy was unavailable to comment yesterday, but Turner said Steffy is doing well, all things considered.

"The game was tough," Turner said. "He told me his thumb was bothering him in the third quarter. I told him to try to fight it out. At some point, it got to be too much and now the diagnosis is not too good."

Friedgen also said that third-stringer Josh Portis will see action for the second consecutive game. The athletic dual-threat quarterback had four rushes for 10 yards against Delaware. Offensive coordinator James Franklin said he wants to use Portis more in specific packages against Middle Tennessee State.

"We had a couple situations where things weren't called correctly, formationally," Franklin said. "We will get that cleaned up. He was a little nervous. His first action in two years. That will grow."

In an interview yesterday morning, Middle Tennessee Coach Rick Stockstill was confident about the identity of Maryland's starter, even though the Terrapins had yet to name one.

"Here is what I think: Turner is going to start, and they are going to bring in Portis to run the ball," Stockstill said. "That is what we are planning on. They will run their regular offense with Turner."

Terrapins Note: Sophomore running back Da'Rel Scott had a leg infection early in the week, but it is not expected to impact his status for Saturday's game. Sophomore running back Morgan Green, who was hampered by a nagging quadriceps injury for much of training camp, is expected to play Saturday behind Scott and second-stringer Davin Meggett.

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