Maryland Coach Bobby Ross said yesterday that junior Stan Gelbaugh will start at quarterback Saturday against Duke, largely because original starter Frank Reich has recovered only "90 percent" from his mild shoulder separation.
Ross said even if Reich is 100 percent by Saturday, which he and Reich feel is quite likely, Gelbaugh will start. Both quarterbacks will play, Ross said, adding that the starter's job will be Reich's as soon as his throwing shoulder has recovered beyond doubt.
Ross wanted to settle on a starter as early in the week as possible, and decided on Gelbaugh, a red-shirt junior. He had relieved Reich, who injured his throwing shoulder Sept. 29 against Wake Forest.
Gelbaugh has completed 55 percent of his passes, thrown for 308 yards against Penn State, had 10 straight completions in Maryland's Oct. 13 victory over North Carolina State and has not been sacked.
Reich, a fifth-year senior, started the first four games, completing 64 percent of his passes, with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
But Ross said yesterday at his weekly luncheon, "The decision has nothing to do with previous performance. It is our opinion at this time that Frank is at about 90 percent proficiency.
"When Frank is back to 100 percent, the inclination is to go back to Frank. We have always had a team policy that if a starting player is hurt and recovers in a period of time that is (reasonable), that player should return to his starting spot.
"I need to be fair and I need to be consistent," Ross said. "I don't think you've seen any variance in that policy in the past. I think our quarterback situation is very healthy right now; we have two first-team quarterbacks."
Reich and Gelbaugh, the best of friends and roommates, met with Ross about an hour before the decision was made public. Both quarterbacks also said before practice they thought the decision was fair.
Gelbaugh, who gave up his job as starting punter when Reich was injured, walked into the football offices yesterday morning knowing he could lose both jobs in one day and wind up being a benchwarmer by Saturday's trip to Durham, N.C.
"I'm glad that they have enough confidence in me to start me again this week," Gelbaugh said. "Anytime you're playing, you're happy. Frank and I discussed this way back in the summer. We sat down and said, 'Look, things could happen on the field; let's not let it affect our friendship and our relationship as roommates.' "
Reich said he thought about not telling Ross that he was experiencing little pains when throwing out patterns and deep passes the last three days in practice.
But in their private meeting, Reich recalled, "I could see how open and honest he was being in trying to assess the situation. He was being so open, it was just like putting truth serum in me." Reich later added that Ross probably had noticed anyway that Reich was narrowly missing passes that he usually threw perfectly.
"Naturally, I want to start and play every down," Reich said. "I'm not crazy about not starting, but I understand the decision, and certainly it's fair . . . . I keep trying to convince myself that I'm 100 percent. But I'm not, and that's that."
Jess Atkinson, the Maryland place kicker, also rooms with Reich and Gelbaugh. Atkinson joked yesterday that he had constructed barbed wire in the room and had "locked up all sharp objects.
"Seriously, though," Atkinson said, "there hasn't been a bit of animosity. If there was it was directed at me. Neither one of them liked the Halloween pumpkin I carved and Frank and Stan told me they were going to throw it out the window; I told them neither had an arm strong enough."
Meanwhile, Reich was preparing to go out and "hit the sled" with his weak shoulder while nobody was looking. "I feel I can throw effectively," Reich said. "But taking a hit is the biggest question right now." Ross said the two quarterbacks were close in performance indicators. Reich, in the games he started, is 2-2; Gelbaugh 1-1.
Ross said today that seniors Gil Hoffman and Bobby Gunderman might split time at right cornerback since Donald Brown (injured finger) will be out of the lineup. Defensive back Joe Kraus (injured hamstring) is also out for this week . . . Starting left guard Bruce Mesner, one of the team's best defensive linemen, had a bruised thigh and his status for the Duke game might not be determined until game time, Ross said . . . James Milling, a 5-8 redshirt freshman receiver, will play at one flanker spot in place of Sean Sullivan, who had a torn tendon in his finger operated on yesterday, and John Bonato, who broke his arm earlier in the week.