Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Ken Mastrole will be considerably better prepared for his second taste of serious college action than he was for his first.
Mastrole, a redshirt freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., entered August camp as Maryland's third-team quarterback. He moved up to No. 2 after an intrasquad scrimmage and got a handful of snaps in the first two games, but mostly he watched while Brian Cummings ran the first-team offense.
When Cummings left a Sept. 14 game at Virginia with a slight shoulder separation, Mastrole was thrown to a savvy Virginia defense, and the result was a predictable 21-3 loss.
Maryland goes to West Virginia on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN2), and while Cummings used a bye week to heal his injury, Mastrole has had at least four practices as the No. 1 quarterback. Coach Mark Duffner said he is optimistic that Cummings will play, but if he can't, Mastrole is ready.
"I had a real good week," Mastrole said. "I've been able to think about different things, get my timing down with the first team. I'm prepared [to start], but who knows?"
The dilemma for quarterback coach Rob Spence is keeping Mastrole sharp, while reincorporating Cummings into the practice plan.
"Ken is not limited in anything except experience," Spence said. "In preparing for Virginia, we wanted the starter [Cummings] to be as sharp as possible. We were not getting the second-team guy [Mastrole] hardly any reps, but Ken has had the lion's share of time lately."
Cummings played hurt most of last season, and Mountaineer Field has artificial turf, making him more susceptible to injury. Maryland has seven Atlantic Coast Conference games left after its final nonconference game, and Duffner could hold out Cummings as a precaution.
"I felt all right, but I'm not sure what's going to happen," Cummings said of his return to practice Monday. "Coach Duffner had me dancing around with cheerleaders, that's been my form of exercise. It gets better every day, but I'm not going to be able to tell anything until later this week. I'm still hopeful, but nothing positive."
Deja vu at WVU?
The Terps are big underdogs, no one is taking them seriously and their quarterback situation is unsettled.
It sounds like the last time Maryland went to West Virginia, when the Terps appeared headed to oblivion instead of Morgantown.
An 0-2 start in 1994 had dropped Duffner's record with the Terps to 5-19, and the situation was expected to worsen against a team that was coming off a Sugar Bowl season. What happened? Maryland posted a 24-13 upset victory that started its rise from the depths of Division I-A.
Thursday night? No thanks
The game had been scheduled for tomorrow, as ESPN's Thursday night offering. When the ACC juggled its lineup in early July and gave Maryland last week's bye, however, West Virginia coach Don Nehlen balked. Who can blame him?
"Heavens to Betsy, Maryland told us when the schedule was made that they were playing last week," Nehlen said. "When I found out they didn't have a game, I wasn't going to play them on a Thursday. We got home [from Purdue] at 3 a.m. Sunday."
Duffner said that running back Buddy Rodgers "is the healthiest he's been since Aug. 10," when the veterans began practice. Rodgers has been slowed by a thigh injury. Don't look for a lot of points. West Virginia is seventh in the nation in total defense, and Maryland is 14th. The Terps are fifth and the Mountaineers are tied for sixth in turnover margin.
Pub Date: 9/25/96