Joel Statham and Jordan Steffy each has an equal chance to start at quarterback on Saturday against Clemson, Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday.
Neither proved effective in Saturday's 13-3 loss to North Carolina State, as Maryland's season continued to unravel with its second straight home defeat. The gap between the two players is virtually nonexistent as the Terps (3-3, 1-2 ACC) prepare to enter a four-game stretch that includes three of the nation's top defensive teams.
"To me, the competition [at quarterback] is very even," said Friedgen, who will decide on a starter later in the week. "I don't know if one has an advantage over the other."
The fact that Maryland will play Clemson (2-4, 1-3) in Death Valley before 80,000 fans could give Statham a slight edge in starting, Friedgen said. The 20-year-old sophomore played before a hostile crowd in the 19-16 overtime loss at West Virginia on Sept. 18.
On the other hand, Friedgen said, Steffy has handled two-minute drills in practice particularly well. On Saturday, Steffy completed only 1 of 7 passes for six yards against the nation's top-ranked pass defense. Friedgen said "it got to be a blur after a while" for the 19-year-old freshman.
After examining tape of the loss, Friedgen commended his team's effort but said "at times I think we lost a little heart. You could see it on the sidelines."
Friedgen said he and his assistants need to do a better job of "reaching" players this week.
While the continuing saga at quarterback garners much of the focus, "there are breakdowns everywhere" on offense, center Kyle Schmitt said.
On Sept. 25, Maryland compiled 685 total yards in a 55-21 victory at Duke. In the past two weeks, the Terps have accumulated 172 yards combined. The disparity, as much as anything, confounds coaches.
"How do you fall that fast?" Friedgen said. "To me, that's the question."
Maryland had 11 three-and-outs Saturday and, in the second quarter, recorded minus-8 yards of total offense.
Friedgen agreed with Maryland players who said, at times, the Wolfpack's defense seemed to know what play was coming. On one occasion, Friedgen said, N.C. State called out the play before Maryland ran a double screen.
On the injury front, left tackle Stephon Heyer will undergo an MRI exam today and is doubtful for Saturday. Heyer dislocated his kneecap, but returned to the game after it was taped back in place. The injury does not affect Heyer's ability to pass protect, because that requires backward movement. Run blocking, however, could prove challenging.
Offensive linemen Brandon Nixon and Russell Bonham, both of whom missed the N.C. State game with injuries, are expected to be back. Other injuries include defensive end Shawne Merriman (ankle sprain) and running backs Josh Allen (hip pointer) and Sam Maldonado (shoulder sprain). Merriman had a career-high 16 tackles Saturday.
Although the immediate future looks ominous, Friedgen will convey a positive outlook. "We're playing very good defense and our special teams is playing well," he said. "That's something to build on."