Regardless of who is named Maryland's starting quarterback, Coach Ralph Friedgen said freshman Jordan Steffy "needs to play more" and that there is a chance both he and Joel Statham will play Saturday.

Twenty-four hours after one of the most disappointing losses of his coaching career, Friedgen said he will formally meet with his staff before announcing tomorrow who will start at quarterback against North Carolina State.

Friedgen, in considerable brighter spirits than in the moments immediately following this past Saturday's 20-7 loss to Georgia Tech, said Steffy "gave us some excitement" and "changed the momentum of things" when he entered the game midway through the third quarter to the delight of the crowd.

Steffy engineered Maryland's only scoring drive, completed 5 of 9 passes for 38 yards and was incessantly pressured by Georgia Tech's blitzing defense because of offensive line breakdowns. Equally harassed was Statham, who threw for only 36 yards and none after halftime.

Friedgen, after reviewing tape, acknowledged Steffy "is not there yet" and that he would need to pare down the offense should Steffy start. In that event, the concern is whether a truncated offense would impede Maryland against what will be, for the most part, tougher competition for the rest of the season than the Terps have faced.

Maryland (3-2) has played two teams, Duke and Temple, which rank 105th and 107th, respectively, in total defense. The remaining schedule offers more formidable opposition, including four teams -- North Carolina State, Virginia, Florida State and Virginia Tech -- that rank among the nation's top 15 in total defense.

What's more, N.C. State (3-2) ranks first nationally in pass defense and poses a stern test for any quarterback, much less a 19-year-old freshman. "Steffy is ahead of where we thought most freshmen would be," Friedgen said. "Is it far enough? What I don't want him to do is lose confidence."

Steffy, who made strides throughout training camp, hit a mental wall toward the end of August. Friedgen said Steffy is playing better, particularly in the past two weeks, after earlier battling homesickness. Following Saturday's loss, Friedgen held everyone accountable -- players, assistants, himself. Added defensive end Shawne Merriman, "We just were not prepared." Yesterday, Friedgen said a comment he made Saturday suggesting he would fire coaches if warranted was in jest. "I'm very happy with the coaches I have," he said yesterday.

In addition, Friedgen, when asked yesterday about the play-calling, said: "I don't second-guess on play-calling. That's for the fans to do."

Through five games, Statham has 10 fumbles, 7 interceptions and 7 touchdown passes, and he was ranked first in the ACC in total offense before Saturday's game. Friedgen has publicly stood by the 20-year-old quarterback as outside criticism has intensified seemingly with each interception.

"We put a lot of work in Joel and thought he was advancing and he had one bad night," said Friedgen, adding "one bad night does not make a season."

Terrapins Notes: Merriman, who lined up at tight end during a third-quarter drive Saturday, could play more in that role in specific goal line situations. . . .

Adam Podlesh's average of 43.72 net yards per punt ranks first nationally.

Ralph Friedgen said freshman Jordan Steffy, above, "gave us some excitement" when he replaced Joel Statham against Georgia Tech.