EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Maryland Terrapins entered a new season last night with a host of question marks surrounding their unproven quarterback position, and in a 22-0 loss to Notre Dame at Giants Stadium in the 20th and final Kickoff Classic, their passers earned some experience the hard way.
As expected, redshirt junior Scott McBrien started the game, while sophomore Chris Kelley got his first taste of live action after overcoming three knee operations. And as expected, neither quarterback reminded anyone of recently departed Shaun Hill, who led Maryland to an Atlantic Coast Conference title and an Orange Bowl berth a year ago before winning a job this summer with the Minnesota Vikings.
It was a humbling evening for the entire Maryland offense, starting with McBrien and Kelley. Together, they combined to complete just 12 of 32 passes for 117 yards. Three passes were intercepted by Notre Dame cornerback Shane Walton. Each quarterback missed open receivers and threw ill-advised passes into double coverage. Each quarterback started his year with a bruise.
"I think our quarterbacks struggled in their decision-making, and [Notre Dame] was taking away our running game. We're a very young team," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "You teach a kid what to do in practice, and then you get into a game. Things are much faster. The pressure is on. It's more intense."
Various parts of the Terps' attack did no favors for McBrien or Kelley. Maryland is missing tailback Bruce Perry for at least half the season, and the new rotation of Jason Crawford and Mario Merrills never established a ground game behind a shaky offensive line. The Terps managed only 16 yards rushing. And it didn't help that receivers dropped a handful of passes.
McBrien, a left-handed transfer from West Virginia with a sidearm throwing motion, started and played the entire first half before giving way to Kelley late in the third quarter with the Terps trailing 19-0.
It didn't take the newcomer long to struggle.
On the game's opening possession, after he connected with wideout Jafar Williams for a 10-yard gain, McBrien made his first mistake. After failing to see fullback Chad Killian open in the left flat, McBrien overthrew Williams. Walton ended up with his first interception, giving the Fighting Irish the ball at the Terps' 48.
"I was just trying to get my feet wet by making something happen early. My fullback was open, and I should have dropped it in the flat," said McBrien, who finished 9-for-23 for 84 yards and two interceptions. "We had a great game plan coming in. We just needed one big play to break the ice, but we never got it going."
Kelley entered the game with 3:41 left in the third quarter after Notre Dame had taken its 19-0 lead on a 46-yard field goal by Nicholas Setta. For Kelley, just getting on the field in front of more than 72,000 people was a huge step after his history of injuries. But the Terps, who had no choice but to throw the ball at that point, were a beaten group.
Kelley finished 3-for-9 for 33 yards and one interception. He was relieved again by McBrien midway through the fourth quarter.
"We prepared for tonight good, but we just didn't come out to play," Kelley said. "We know what we did wrong. We were thinking too much, and things have to happen faster for us to be successful [as quarterbacks] . It was a real embarrassment what we did."
Friedgen announced no change in plans with his quarterbacks for next week's home opener against Akron, meaning both passers will likely get a chance to prove themselves on the same stage again.
"Everybody needs to be re-evaluated," Friedgen said. "You've got to put [the quarterbacks] in situations where they can be successful. We've probably got to simplify some things for them. You teach a kid what to do in practice, and you get into a game, and things are much faster. We've got to cut back some with them."