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Statham states his case vs. Temple

September 12, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Joel Statham plays for the Fridge but thinks like the Bear.

Saturday's game was the next step in the University of Maryland quarterback's maturation process as the leader of the Terrapins offense.

Saturday was a time to get comfortable, improve on his skills and do what it would take to get the Terps headed in the right direction. The sophomore quarterback did all that while listening to coach Ralph Friedgen's advice and remembering an old Paul "Bear" Bryant quote about success. Then, he led Maryland to its first score in a 45-22 victory over Temple before 51,292 fans at Byrd Stadium.

"I tried to act like I have been there before," Statham said, after passing his second test as the Terrapins' starting quarterback. "I have to concentrate on the next series."

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Bryant was a stickler when it came to his Alabama players celebrating after touchdowns. He used to tell them to "act like you've been there before. Act like you'll be there again."

Statham enjoyed the former and took the latter to heart as he tried to perfect his game.

"I was more confident in myself and a lot calmer this week," Statham said. "Coach wanted me to work on my passing efficiency. ... I think I hit 70 percent tonight."

Statham wasn't spectacular but he was functional as the Terps (2-0) carved up the Owls defense in the first half. Statham wasn't the most accurate passer, fluttering his incompletions while making his receivers work to get to some of his completions. Yet, he did the little things that Friedgen was looking for to get the Terps going.

"Statham had a good game. He benefited from last week's game and did a lot of good things out there," Friedgen said. "He played tonight like he does in practice. He was more confident. I told him if he got rid of the turnovers, he'd be playing pretty well."

Statham fumbled for the third time in his first two games, which led to Temple's first touchdown after Maryland had built a relatively easy 28-0 lead. When the quarterback was on, he had the Terps getting the yardage they needed in a variety of situations to keep drives alive.

Maryland scored the first four times it had the ball as Statham hit on 15 of 20 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Although some of his early completions were on underthrown passes, he showed what he's capable of during a two-minute drill that he improvised on to get a 14-yard score to Derrick Fenner in the left corner of the end zone."

"He freelanced," Friedgen said. "He tried to throw it away, but he put it in a spot where only Fenner could catch it."

Temple had the best view when it came to Statham's growth process.

"We felt like early in the game he was a little inaccurate," Temple coach Bobby Wallace said. "We tried to force him to throw the football, but we gave him easy throws. Then he got into a rhythm and threw some really excellent passes, especially in long situations. He settled down and made some really nice plays in the middle of the game.

"He's growing as a quarterback."

That might have been the best compliment that Statham received.

He finished with 268 yards on 18 of 25 passing and only took one sack. But more importantly, Statham took control of Maryland's offense.

"Tonight, I thought he put us in the right play with the right audibles," Friedgen said. "We didn't have very many audibles tonight, but he got us in the right play and he improvised well. I'm just hoping he gets better the more he plays. It's not an easy thing to do to go out there and get it down pat."

That's the way the Bear would have wanted it and the Fridge will accept it.

"I felt better and had more poise," Statham said. "The jitters were better and I felt more prepped for the game. I had to go out and do a job and be more efficient."

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