Doug Strang, Penn State's senior quarterback, has completed only 40 percent of his passes this season. In last Saturday's 28-3 loss to Texas, he completed only nine of 26 passes for 113 yards.
Monday, a Philadelphia newspaper reported there is a strong faction at Penn State that wants Coach Joe Paterno to bench Strang.
"You're kidding," Paterno said yesterday at his weekly press conference in University Park, Pa. "Doug Strang has carried a terrible load very admirably, considering we have all kinds of problems."
Paterno then listed the problems: an injured receiving corps, dropped passes by wideouts, a young offensive line.
"I grieve for the guy," Paterno said of Strang. "He's thrown to eight or nine different wideouts. People should stop moaning and appreciate the fact he's gotten us to 3-1 despite so many problems."
Penn State plays host to Maryland this week, and Bobby Ross, the Terrapins' coach, has been watching reels of Strang.
"With Strang, they're receiving some abuse that is not justified," Ross said at his weekly press conference. "He's big. He's strong. He lays a clothesline (pass). He was under a lot of pressure against Texas. He was two or three inches away from completing four or five big passes. Some days those plays click, some days they don't. He's a heck of a quarterback."
A year ago, Strang completed almost 52 percent of his passes for 1,944 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. This season, he has completed 33 of 82 attempts for 388 yards, four interceptions and two touchdowns.
Asked why Strang's percentage of completions is so low, Paterno replied, "The percentages are low because we've been throwing a lot of low-percentage passes . . . We should have come up with at least two catches on the bombs. They're the kind big-league wideouts should make."
Maryland will change quarterbacks this week, but not by choice.
Starter Frank Reich suffered a mild shoulder separation in the 38-17 victory Saturday over Wake Forest. Stan Gelbaugh, who led Maryland to two late touchdowns in that game, will replace him.
Ross said he wants Reich's shoulder to heal completely and is not counting on him to be back until the Duke game Oct. 27. The Terrapins have an open date the previous week, so Reich likely will miss only the Penn State and North Carolina State games.
Neither Ross nor Paterno expects the switch to affect Maryland's style of play.
"There was no loss of rhythm or continuity when Stan came in," Ross said.
Asked if he would be more conservative against Penn State, Ross replied, "No way. We're going to go up there and play our game . . . mix our run, mix our pass and do what we have to do. There's no way you can get conservative with Penn State. They'll shut you down completely. It's very important to establish the run and the pass. We've got to be able to do both. Balance -- that's what we want."
Paterno said it was important to remember that Gelbaugh is a redshirted junior. "He's got some experience through the years," Paterno said. "He was six for six last week. Sometimes you put those kids in and . . ."
He didn't need to finish the sentence.
Ross said, "I'm expecting Stan Gelbaugh to give us a good game at quarterback -- I really am. I've always had a lot of confidence in him as a quarterback. I like his athletic ability. He's been in our system for 2 1/2 years. There's no reason he can't go out and execute the things we've been doing."
Approximately 150 tickets for the Penn State game will go on sale at 9 a.m. today at Cole Field House . . . With Gelbaugh at quarterback, Ross said he likely will use redshirt freshman Darryl Wright as the punter. He said Wright has kicked better than Gelbaugh in practice the past two weeks . . . The starting time of the Nov. 10 game at Miami has been changed from 7 p.m. to 12:15 and will be televised regionally . . . Ross said backup fullback Stephon Scriber (bruised shoulder) will be available only for special teams this week, if he can play at all. Left guard Tom Parker, who had a sprained ankle, will return to the starting lineup; Donald Brown, who suffered a hamstring injury against Vanderbilt, will be available and wide receiver Sean Sullivan, who broke a foot in preseason, practiced without pain for the first time Monday and may be available.