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Boos scare up frightening feel for Terps

October 15, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland endured something worse than an embarrassing loss last Saturday.

While Georgia Tech taught the Terrapins' struggling offense a painful lesson, Maryland also received a vocabulary lesson.

Unfortunately, the word of the day was "Booooooo."

For the first time in the Ralph Friedgen era, the Maryland natives became restless with the play of the Terrapins.

Fans sitting in Byrd Stadium unleashed an opera in boo flat as quarterback Joel Statham failed to move the offense and Maryland lost some of its magic touch that suddenly came with a winning record.

The taste of the other side of the tracks surprised and disturbed the Terps.

"There is a lot of negativity going on around here," Maryland tight end Vernon Davis said. "There are a lot of people out there who are saying we aren't any good. We are really good and we have a lot of potential."

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Youth and potential have been the buzzwords this season for the Terps, who spent the entire season in the bottom five of the Top 25 before falling out this week because of the 20-7 loss to Tech.

Friedgen has raised the bar of expectations for Maryland fans, so potential is tough to expect. Statham was cascaded by boos right before leaving the game in the third quarter.

"I talked to Joel (Monday) and told him that he had to be mentally tough, not just physically," Friedgen said. "You have to hang together and keep working and don't pay attention to the guys booing in the stands. If you keep working, those guys booing you will be cheering you when things go right."

Warranted or unwarranted, the wrath has fallen on Statham's shoulders. Despite some big numbers, the sophomore quarterback's season has been inconsistent. The inconsistency showed up against Tech, but Statham's teammates are coming out in force to support him and freshman Jordan Steffy, who could possibly be the starter.

"I think I can speak for the offensive line that we've seen a lot of quarterbacks go through over the years," Maryland lineman Lou Lombardo said. "We give it our all for anyone who is standing back there. When you are in a game, the name of the player behind us doesn't matter. As long as they have confidence, we have confidence."

Statham is the new guy for Maryland, which went through Friedgen's first three seasons with relatively experienced quarterbacks. Statham, a sophomore, and Steffy are learning the system and trying to execute it in games.

It's just going to take time for either one to assert himself as the main quarterback.

"I've got faith in Joel," Davis said. "Everyone around here does. He has just got to take his time and things will come around. Last week was difficult. You win some and you lose some, but we are trying to win them all. It wasn't all Joel's fault. Everyone did some things wrong."

The Terrapins continue to do everything they can to shelter Statham from the negative influences. Friedgen has decided to keep him away from the media. That leaves his teammates as his main method of positive re-enforcement.

"We back our quarterbacks 100 percent," Lombardo said. "We tell them all the time in the huddles. When something goes wrong, we keep reminding him in the huddles that we are behind him."

But still, no matter what is said, Statham has to prove to himself that he is the quarterback for Maryland.

"I keep telling Joel he can go out there and do anything he wants on the field," Davis said. "I tell him to go out there and play like he did in high school. Back then, that's when he believed in himself.

"Everyone has mistakes and we just have to learn from them. You have to work hard in practice and overcome the problems and then move on."

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