It was hard to tell what ailed more yesterday, Scott Milanovich's ego or Brian Cummings' foot.
The two are at the center of Maryland's quarterback controversy, which will simmer over the weekend, because coach Mark Duffner said he won't name a starter for next Saturday's game at Wake Forest until tomorrow at the earliest.
Milanovich, returning from a four-game suspension for gambling, went the entire way in Thursday night's 31-3 Atlantic Coast Conference loss at Georgia Tech. Cummings, the starter as Maryland raced to a 4-0 ranking and the nation's No. 17 ranking, came on the field just once, to hold on a field goal. Duffner disclosed last night that the redshirt sophomore has a broken bone in his foot.
"To be honest, I'm not sure what bone it is," Duffner said. "It happened during the Duke game [last week], and I think it's the same foot he hurt against Tulane, but I'm not positive. It's not that serious of an injury, but it affects his mobility a little. He also had a bruised shoulder coming out of the Duke game, and couldn't throw on Monday.
"Brian probably could've played as the game went on, but that just wouldn't have been prudent."
In naming Milanovich to start Tuesday, Duffner didn't dwell on Cummings' injuries as a factor. Cummings sprained his left ankle in the opener at Tulane, and wasn't named as the starter in Week 2 against North Carolina until minutes before game time.
From all accounts, both parties knew two months ago that Milanovich would replace Cummings and start at Tech. A source close to Milanovich said that Milanovich received assurance then that he would start when he returned, but that Duffner made no guarantees after that.
Milanovich is the better downfield passer, but there was never enough time to go deep against Tech, which focused on pressuring a player who hadn't suited up in 10 months.
"I couldn't believe they put Milanovich in," free safety Ryan Stewart said. "I think we capitalized on his rustiness."
Milanovich was asked yesterday if he felt as if he had been ambushed by the Yellow Jackets, who had 11 days to prepare compared to Maryland's four.
"It's not the way I wanted it, but I knew what the risks were," Milanovich said from his off-campus apartment. "In the first four games, we always got the key play when we needed it, but things never fell our way."
Milanovich threw for 352 yards, and raised his career total to 6,477, passing Boomer Esiason's school record in the process, but he also threw an interception and lost a fumble. The offense wasn't alone in its futility, as the Terps' defense had its worst game of the year, allowing 411 yards and getting just one turnover.
Despite being routed in their first national television appearance in six years, the Terps (4-1, 2-1) are very much alive in the race for one of the ACC's four bowl bids. After Wake Forest, Maryland, which played five games in 27 days, will get two weeks to prepare for the Oct. 21 homecoming against Clemson, which has shut out the Terps the last two years.
Maryland needs the rest. Georgia Tech shut down a supposedly rejuvenated running game, but a lingering calf bruise contributed to Buddy Rodgers' total of 4 yards. The Yellow Jackets sacked Milanovich six times, and didn't always need the blitz, as defensive end Jermaine Miles prospered when left tackle Darryl Gilliam went out with a sprained knee.
"Our line had trouble," Duffner said. "It was clearly their least-productive game of the year. As everything unfolded, it wasn't the most opportune situation for Scott [Milanovich]."
Duffner said he will not make a big deal out a pivotal penalty that kept Tech in command.
An outside screen to Jermaine Lewis went for an 80-yard touchdown, but it was called back when Geroy Simon was flagged for an illegal block on free safety Mike Dee, who turned his back apparently before the two made contact at the Yellow Jackets 27-yard line. The play would have brought the Terps within 16-10 with 2:41 to go in the third quarter.
Bradley Faircloth, who oversees ACC football officials, attended the game and said there was no basis for a protest.
"I didn't realize there was that much controversy," said Faircloth, who would not name the official who threw the flag. "If the defensive back has clearly turned his back, the fact that he does it just before contact doesn't give the offensive player the right to push him in the back."