Ralph Friedgen continued to stand behind quarterback Joel Statham yesterday, one day after the 20-year-old threw three first-half interceptions in Maryland's 19-16 overtime loss at West Virginia.

The Terps (2-1) open their ACC schedule Saturday at Duke with a quarterback who has been turnover-prone in two of Maryland's three games. Friedgen yesterday repeated what he has said all summer, that Statham's learning curve will be a "gradual" process.

The quandary Maryland's coaching staff faces is how to correct errors without making Statham tentative in the pocket.

"He came back in the second half and got us in the lead," Friedgen said. "He was resilient and kept our poise. I know people aren't going to be understanding. But I'm not surprised with a lot of the things that happened. I almost anticipated some of this."

After examining Statham's performance -- he completed 9 of 20 passes for 108 yards -- Friedgen pinpointed specific team breakdowns that led to at least one of Statham's interceptions. Two players lined up in the wrong formation, said Friedgen, who in the future would like to see Statham recognize such a problem and call a timeout.

On another interception, Statham overthrew tight end Rob Abiamiri near the end zone and cornerback Adam Jones, whom Friedgen said had blown his coverage, intercepted. Had Statham thrown lower, it would have been a completion to Abiamiri. Had he thrown deeper into the end zone, Friedgen said, it would have been a touchdown pass to Steve Suter, who had shaken Jones's coverage.

Numerous logistical errors occurred because of the crowd noise. There were problems executing the snap count and relaying plays in the huddle. Players occasionally went the wrong way when an audible was called at the line of scrimmage.

Among other concerns, Friedgen said, Statham at times "steered" the ball when he threw. And in the future, when Statham sees his first two options well covered, Friedgen would like him to tuck the ball and run rather than force a pass across the field.

While Friedgen has supported Statham, the impetus is on the quarterback to show improvement. "If he's going to be our quarterback," Friedgen said, "he's going to have to do it."

Duffie Still Fighting Crohn's

Friedgen is uncertain if defensive tackle Justin Duffie will remain with the team because of lingering effects from Crohn's disease. Duffie told Friedgen prior to the West Virginia game that the disease "keeps acting up" more than three months after Duffie had surgery to extract nearly 14 inches of inflamed intestines.

"I told him he has to think about his health," Friedgen said. "I said, 'Step away for a while right now to get yourself well.' It's up to him and his doctors. I left the door open." . . .

Defensive end Kevin Eli is day-to-day after suffering a concussion Saturday that required him to undergo tests following the game; Eli returned separately to College Park, Friedgen said.

Joel Statham threw 3 interceptions against West Virginia. "I almost anticipated some of this," Ralph Friedgen said.