Turner improves his snap judgment

The Baltimore Sun

College Park -- On Friday, after a less-than-desirable Thursday practice, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen summoned quarterback Chris Turner to his office. What followed - part pep talk, part challenge - set the table for the Terps' stunning victory over Boston College.

"I was kind of upset with him after Thursday's practice," Friedgen said at his weekly news conference yesterday. "I kind of saw him going the other way. I told him I thought he could be a very good quarterback, but he had to do some of the things he was doing earlier."

That included having Turner direct the defensive coverage with his eyes, then come back to a receiver in a different area.

It was a point of emphasis for the night, and it never worked better than when the redshirt sophomore threw a two-point conversion pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey in the first minute of the fourth quarter. It put the Terps up by 21 points in what became a 42-35 win.

"He got everybody [on defense] to jump the underneath route and threw the ball to Darrius," Friedgen said. "That's him putting the coverage where he wanted it to be. A lot of guys can't do that, so I saw a maturity and a growth there. Now, if he can continue to do that, then we're going to have something really special."

Turner's 337-yard, three-touchdown performance was Friedgen's reward for putting the long pass back in Maryland's game plan. The Terps threw deep early and often to keep the Eagles on their heels.

In his first start for Maryland against Georgia Tech on Oct. 6, Turner completed three passes of more than 40 yards. On Saturday, he had four.

Friedgen wants to see more of the same when the Terps meet Florida State on Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla.

Having heard his coach's message from a week ago, Turner expects a similar game plan.

"Similar to Boston College, [the Seminoles] are pretty good against the run also," he said. "They stack the box with seven, eight, nine guys. It doesn't matter who you are, you're not going to run the ball against that.

"In order to enable our running game, we're going to have to pass."

Unlike Boston College, which plays zone coverage, Florida State plays pressing, man-to-man coverage that will challenge the Terps' receivers.

Friedgen wanted to put the ball deep in last season's 27-24 victory over Florida State in College Park and got three touchdown passes from Sam Hollenbach but not quite the same effect Turner had on Boston College.

"Last year, I felt like we had to be aggressive with them," Friedgen said. "It helps when we make plays - throwing balls down the field and coming up with catches, with [pass] protection. I thought Chris played really smart, did a great job managing the game.

"So when we're executing, it really helps us to be aggressive. But if we're getting sacked or we're throwing interceptions or dropping passes, it doesn't look like we're the same aggressive team."

Turner ranks second in the Atlantic Coast Conference - and 27th nationally - in passing efficiency (138.3) In five starts, he has completed 63.8 percent of his passes. And Saturday's effort marked the first 300-yard passing game for the Terps since Hollenbach threw for 374 against North Carolina on Nov. 12, 2005.

Confidence comes with success, Turner said in so many words.

"A big part of it is becoming more comfortable as a starter," said Turner, 6 feet 3, 214 pounds. "Early on ... I didn't know what it took to win, really. Now I know. I'm pretty young, I have a few more years after this and I'm still learning."

Friedgen hopes Turner, from Simi Valley, Calif., has turned a corner with his performance.

"There were a lot of plays Chris had to check at the line, and a lot of plays he had to read coverages," Friedgen said. "I thought he did a very good job, but I also thought our other players made plays around him, which makes his job easier."


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