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Steffy passes first test for Maryland

September 02, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Jordan Steffy answered Ralph Friedgen's prayers ... twice.

As the University of Maryland's head coach and offensive coordinator, Friedgen admitted he only wanted the very best for Steffy in his first start at quarterback.

"I was praying for him," Friedgen admitted after the Terrapins' 31-14 victory over Villanova on Saturday at Byrd Stadium. "He didn't play tight. He played like he has been at practice. He was out there having fun."

Steffy did all he needed to do in efficient fashion with his 19-of-24 passing for 174 yards and his 47 yards rushing and one touchdown in his long-awaited starting debut. He led the Terps on three of their four touchdown runs.

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It was all important in another season of transition for Maryland at its quarterback position.

Perhaps most importantly, Steffy finished the game healthy. It was a roller coaster day for the Terps when it came to quarterbacks. Let's take a role call.

Maryland started the day with three quarterbacks with Steffy up front followed by Josh Portis and Chris Turner in backup slots. The Terps only had two QBs at gametime when it was announced that Portis was academically ineligible for the entire 2007 season.

Then they went to one signal caller - the untested Turner - when Steffy went down with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. It looked serious as Maryland brought the truck out to cart Steffy off the field, but he left on his own power after suffering through cramps.

"I told Jordan, 'You gotta get up,'" said running back Keon Lattimore, who finished the game with 105 yards rushing and three touchdowns. "Then when he saw the Gator coming for him, he said, 'I'm not getting on that thing.'"

And then it went back to two quarterbacks when Steffy returned with 2:37 left in third to start Maryland's next drive after Turner came on to engineer the Terps' third TD drive for a 24-7 lead.

"I knew it was a cramp, but I like the idea that he didn't get on the cart," Friedgen said, giving Steffy points for toughness. "Losing Josh doesn't help our football team. It puts us in a tough situation at quarterback. I told the offense that we are in a critical situation and we have to protect (Steffy) at all costs."

Portis lost the preseason quarterback battle with Steffy but was scheduled to get some playing time to give the Terps some new offensive dimensions at times. But it never happened.

Portis was flagged for an unspecified "mistake" in a ruling by Maryland's University Academic Code of Conduct. He apologized to his teammates for his indiscretion, but he will be allowed to practice with the team.

"Kids make mistakes," Friedgen said. "This is no indication of what kind of kid he is. We all make mistakes. Hopefully he will come back from this and be stronger. Right now, Josh is hurting."

So, without a safety net of sorts, Steffy was made even more the main man for the Terps. He came through with flying colors after spending most of his first three seasons on the sidelines and posting less-than-dynamic numbers in passing and negative running yardage in the times he did play.

"It was definitely nice to get going," Steffy said. "But it's a long season. It's good to get this one under me, but this is a marathon."

Steffy showed his maturity in the way he handled the Terps' offense. Most first-time quarterbacks get fixated on primary targets and telegraph where they are going with the ball. The redshirt junior worked down his progression and made many of his completions on short passes which were the second, third or fourth options on the play.

"We do that in practice a lot," Steffy said. "Sometimes out there things get cloudy but Keon and Lance (Ball) did great jobs getting to the places I needed to complete the passes. I did a good job with my reads, but I have to improve."

Steffy's longest completion was 24 yards and he added a 21-yard catch-and-run play to LaQuan Williams for 45 of his 174 passing yards. The other 17 completions rolled up just 129 yards, but moved the first-down markers.

"He was exceptional," Friedgen said. "I thought he looked very comfortable. He is a lot different now. I don't know if he is more comfortable with me, but he's not afraid to offer suggestions."

Saturday became a day when Steffy's efficiency took a back seat to his health. He knew that, but he still wants to be good at his new job.

"How do I rate myself? I don't know," Steffy said. "We won and that's the most important thing. I hope to be able to say that more times than not."

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