COLLEGE PARK -- For at least this week, the play of Maryland sophomore quarterback Joel Statham will have to speak for itself.
In an effort to protect Statham and perhaps sharpen his focus, coach Ralph Friedgen declared that his quarterback would be off-limits to the media this week as the team prepares for its Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Duke in Durham, N.C.
Statham was just 9-for-20 for 108 yards and threw three first-half interceptions in the Terps' 19-16 overtime loss to West Virginia on Saturday. In three games, Statham has turned the ball over eight times.
"I'm going to take him off the [media] circuit to kind of help him through this period," Friedgen said. "It's a growing period, a learning period. Right now I don't think he needs to be distracted."
Friedgen used a similar tactic with quarterback Scott McBrien in 2002 and 2003 in an effort to prevent McBrien from having to answer a deluge of questions about West Virginia, the school he signed with out of high school. McBrien played so poorly at one point during his senior year, he contemplated quitting the team. He recovered, however, and went on to lead Maryland to its third straight 10-win season.
"[McBrien] underwent some growth too," Friedgen said. "With Joel, we're talking about a kid who had three interceptions in the first half -- a couple which weren't his fault -- but he came back and gave us a lead and chance to win the football game. I appreciate and enjoy his perseverance. Right now he needs to focus on getting better and not worrying about anything else."
Offensive lineman Stephon Heyer said the team is firmly behind Statham. The quarterback continues to play well in practice, and last week he completed nearly 80 percent of his passes. However, in the heat of the game, an environment Friedgen called a "street fight in a foreign land," things didn't go as smoothly.
"I think for the most part Joel knows what he did wrong," Heyer said. "He knows he can't make mistakes like that, and you have to bounce back. A lineman has to have confidence in his quarterback. All of us believe in Joel. We feel like he can do the job and get it done for us."
Friedgen reiterated his feelings yesterday that, while backup quarterback Jordan Steffy continues to progress, the freshman simply isn't ready to see major playing time.
"We'd like to get Jordan more experience, but I'd kind of like him to improve his play in practice," Friedgen said. "He's leveled off a bit. He practiced much better [on Monday], and if he continues to grow in practice, then he can look forward to seeing more time in games."
Senior cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who was covering West Virginia wide receiver Chris Henry when Henry made the game-winning touchdown catch Saturday, didn't blink when it was his turn to answer tough questions yesterday.
Foxworth didn't make excuses either, admitting he anticipated that Henry would run a different route from the slant pattern he ran to get open for the 7-yard touchdown.
"I watch a lot of film, and with that formation, the only time they ran a slant was out of twins [two receivers to one side]," Foxworth said. "Normally in that formation, they run a fade. So I was kind of anticipating a fade. The quarterback looked to the left first, which kind of gave me a false sense of security, and when I looked to find my receiver, he was cutting across my face. That was the last thing I expected."
Friedgen said Josh Allen should be completely healthy this week. Allen, who was held out of contact last week, hasn't shown the same explosive running style he did last season, in part because of an undisclosed injury.
"I know what it is, I just don't want to tell anybody," Friedgen said.
Next for Terps
Matchup: No. 23 Maryland (2-1, 0-0) vs. Duke (0-3, 0-1)
Site: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.
When: Saturday, noon
TV/Radio: Ch. 7/WBAL (1090 AM)
Line: Maryland by 17