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Terps quarterback makes big strides in big game

November 15, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Chris Turner's early legend is one more of image than substance.

The lore started when the University of Maryland sophomore quarterback came off the sidelines to replace an injured Jordan Steffy on Sept. 29 at Rutgers and led the the Terps to a victory.

He was a natural. The curly hair. The boyish charms. The rock-and-roll family background. And the West Coast laid-back, hang-loose, surfer-dude mentality helped make him an instant celebrity on campus.

But yet, despite improving at his position as a starter, the Terps were 2-3 with Turner running the show and in danger of missing out on a bowl bid.

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Last Saturday, Turner added the missing substance. He turned in some of his California dreaminess for some East Coast grit.

It took an incredible performance in a 42-35 victory over Boston College in which he outperformed Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan, a Heisman Trophy candidate. And with that outing, Turner may have solidified himself as Maryland's quarterback for the present and the future.

"There was a lot at stake," Turner said. "It was time to buckle down to do what I needed to do to win."

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen basically put the game on Turner's arm. Boston College came in with one of the top run defenses in the nation. It meant the Terrapins needed to do something they hadn't done well all season to win - throw the ball and throw it downfield for big plays.

Turner came out throwing and provided a 21-for-27 night, good for 337 yards and touchdowns of 10, 7 and 57 yards. And in turn, the passing opened up the running game as Maryland jetted to a 42-21 lead.

"Chris played smart and did a great job managing the game," Friedgen said. "He made plays and didn't make turnovers. It's the best game he played and it's not because of the numbers, but because he was able to put the coverages where he wanted them to be. I saw maturity and, if he keeps doing it, then we will have something special."

The win showed an improved product.

"The biggest thing is that I'm comfortable as the starter," Turner said. "When I got the job, I didn't know what to do to win."

Turner has been surrounded with equally inexperienced players since Maryland's starting unit has been whittled away by injuries. The Terps lost tight games to Virginia and North Carolina and a blowout to Clemson to drop off the bowl-game map. Friedgen knew Boston College was the make-or-break game for the Terps' future and took measures to get everything in line.

"I called (Chris) into my office on Friday," Friedgen said. "I was upset with him. I told him that he could be a very good quarterback, but he had to start doing things better. He got the message."

Turner didn't seem to think he was being called on the carpet, but did get something out of the audience with Friedgen.

"It wasn't anything big," Turner said. "I was interested to see what it was all about. It was a one-on-one meeting, the same as before. It was a little like a pep talk. He told me he wanted to see improvement in things. I didn't realize I wasn't doing things the same way that I had been before."

Maybe there weren't any magic words, but it was a meeting which could change the direction of Turner's lore. A light went on because Friedgen had shown confidence in the young quarterback.

"It's a combination of things," Turner said. "Because of the injuries and me being young, we might have been held back a little. The second time I started was against Virginia and I wasn't sure what I was doing, and I closed out the game with a turnover. Saturday, I was focused on staying consistent and I was seeing the coverages. The game slowed down at times."

When games start slowing down for a quarterback, they say everything seems to go in slow motion as he locks on his receivers and doesn't hear all the noise around him. It is considered the point when a quarterback has gained the experience to play the position.

And it came in what was the biggest game of the year, where legends are really created.

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