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Turner gives good audition as Terps' QB

October 10, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - At first glance, Chris Turner looks like a budding rocker on American Idol.

And to be honest, the University of Maryland's blonde, curly haired quarterback is in the same boat as any of those singing contestants.

His fate and immediate future is in the hands of the judges.

Even after throwing for 255 yards and a touchdown in his first start and leading the Terrapins to a 28-26 win over Georgia Tech at Byrd Stadium on Saturday, he's still in the final two for the job.

It is still down to Turner and opening-day starter Jordan Steffy, who missed Saturday's game with the remnants of a concussion, for the right to be the reigning Terrapin Idol. The problem is the main judge is coach Ralph Friedgen, Maryland's version of Simon Cowell.

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"I knew I was starting toward the end of the week but (Friedgen) never told me. I think (I made a case)," Turner said in his cool, California-dude style. "You're asking the wrong person. I'm playing well, but whatever happens, happens."

Friedgen won't be opening any phone lines.

"Well, right now since the other guy (Steffy) isn't ready to go, I have to evaluate them both when they're well," Friedgen said.

It's all his decision to make and Turner made it difficult. Neither Steffy nor Turner are perfect. They both are inexperienced quarterbacks trying to learn the coach's complex offensive system while handling a starter's responsibilities.

Steffy manages the game well and is able to run Maryland's option package, but hasn't been able to establish a consistent passing attack.

Turner isn't as mobile, but is patient in the pocket and delivers the deep ball. Three of his five first-half completions went for 78, 47 and 44 yards, all longer than anything Steffy provided in his first 3 1/2 games before getting injured last week at Rutgers.

And then, Turner came on to pull out that victory in the second half.

On Saturday, Turner showed Maryland's fans that the Terps own a vertical passing game. It started with a 15-yard pass that tight end Jason Goode reached out and snared before running for another 63 yards to the end zone.

Goode had his first catch and first touchdown. Turner had Maryland's longest pass play of the season. And he also had a secret.

"It's a mystery. I'm going to keep you guessing," Turner said. "No, the pass wasn't going for Jason. I was throwing to Darrius (Heyward-Bey), who was a little further downfield. That's why we run some of those patterns that way, to get more receivers in the area."

Turner's other two long completions, both to Heyward-Bey, set up two of Lance Ball's three touchdown runs as Maryland jumped out to a 21-3 lead with 11:54 to go in the half. But then, Georgia Tech started applying more pressure, making Turner look like a sophomore quarterback making his first start.

The Yellow Jackets even forced him to fumble, which defensive end Darrell Robertson scooped up and returned 32 yards for a touchdown to keep Georgia Tech in the game at 21-10 at the half.

"Chris had some series today where he didn't do very well, but he made some plays," Friedgen said. "He was able to correct some mistakes. He made the plays he had to make and he threw the ball upfield."

There were some votes for Maryland to stay with Turner, who gave the Terps their first 250-plus yard passing game since Nov. 12, 2005 - a 374-yard game by Sam Hollenbach against North Carolina State.

"He is playing really well right now," said offensive lineman Jaimie Turner. "He's making the plays when we need them, finding receivers downfield and making good reads. And that's all you an ask of your quarterback."

"He takes a lot off of the shoulders of me and (running back Keon Lattimore) by getting passing yardage," Ball said.

It will make Maryland's off week all the more interesting as Friedgen makes his decision. That decision might not be divulged until Maryland takes the field against Virginia on Oct. 20, though.

"We're definitely going to look at it and we're going to play the best guy," Friedgen said.

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