COLLEGE PARK — Virginia football coach Mike London was paying special attention when Maryland released its depth chart this week, looking for clues on whether starting quarterback C.J. Brown would rebound from a concussion in time to play Saturday against the Cavaliers.
London took notice that Brown, a fifth-year senior off to the best start of his career, continues to appear on the depth chart as a starter. "He's listed right now," London said.
But that doesn't mean Brown will be ready for Saturday's game. Maryland coach Randy Edsall said the final decision on Brown's availability won't be made until after Thursday's practice. If Brown is unable to play, Maryland (4-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) will start sophomore Caleb Rowe, who lacks Brown's quickness but is affectionately called a "gunslinger" by teammates because of his passing prowess and confidence.
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While Brown's status remains uncertain, Maryland got word from the ACC on the jarring hit by Florida State defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel that left Brown dazed in the second quarter of the Seminoles' 63-0 victory Saturday.
Maryland had asked Doug Rhoads, the ACC's coordinator of officials, to review the play and assess whether a penalty should have been called.
Rhoads determined that the hit didn't fall within the definition of "targeting" because McDaniel didn't hit the quarterback with the crown of his helmet, according to two officials familiar with his conclusions.
But his review found that a "roughing the passer" penalty would have been warranted.
McDaniel, who is 6 feet, 295 pounds, appeared to launch into the quarterback's upper chest. Brown's head snapped backward and he twisted in the air, landing face down.
The ACC also asked an NCAA official to review the play. The official — Rogers Redding, the coordinator of officials — agreed with the assessment.
Under a new NCAA rule, McDaniel would have been ejected from the game if he had been flagged for targeting. The NCAA added that penalty this year. There have been 37 targeting fouls in 375 Football Bowl Subdivision games, with 10 disqualifications reversed by instant replay.
"The committee felt that only having a 15-yard penalty was not severe enough punishment for this action," Redding said in an email. "The committee's belief is that we needed more in order to get the players' attention about the seriousness of these fouls which can cause catastrophic injury."
Rowe entered Saturday's game after Brown's injury and completed his first pass for a 19-yard gain. He finished 9-for-17 for 119 yards.
Rowe was summoned last year in similar fashion. After starter Perry Hills was injured against N.C. State, Rowe entered late and was 2-for-2 for 50 yards and had Maryland positioned for a game-winning 33-yard field goal. But freshman Brad Craddock's attempt slammed off the left upright.
Rowe's 2012 season ended a week later with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered against Boston College.
"Oh yeah, He can sling it," center Sal Conaboy said Tuesday of Rowe. "He came right in [against Florida State] and he zinged the first pass out there. He came up to us on the sideline and said, 'Don't worry, I got this.'"
Brown, who has rushed for 286 yards this season, is more of a dual threat than Rowe running the read option.
Rowe "might not be as quick and shifty as C.J., but he can definitely make the throws," Maryland linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil said. "He definitely keeps his eyes downfield and he has the arm."
Because Rowe played the entire second half against Florida State, Virginia (2-3, 0-1 ACC) got another opportunity to scout him on video.
"You did get a chance to see the second quarterback," London said. 'You try to look at the quarterback, the system and the schemes that they play."
But London would only be guessing which Terps quarterback will play.
Edsall said Brown's health is the top priority.
"Believe me, we are never going to put any young man on the field with a concussion or any injury, unless they are fully able to play and are cleared by the medical staff," he said.