COLLEGE PARK - It was a few days before the Oct. 25 North Carolina State game, and Da'Rel Scott was quietly upbeat.
The shoulder that had nagged at the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading rusher since he was slammed into the turf against California in Week 3 was finally healing, and coaches had begun saying he had "his burst" back.
"I'm getting really close to 100 percent now," Scott said then.
But after his 23rd and final carry against the Wolfpack in the rain, Scott got up cradling the injured left shoulder. On Maryland's sideline, coaches cringed. Scott had performed well in the 27-24 victory, but his hard-charging style had exacted a physical toll.
As they travel to Virginia Tech for tomorrow night's game, the Terps once again find themselves uncertain about Scott's status. Scott, whose average of 103 rushing yards leads the ACC and ranks 26th in the nation, is listed as questionable. The team says the redshirt sophomore from suburban Philadelphia will try to play.
"He's a tough guy," coach Ralph Friedgen said.
Friedgen said the elusive Scott has transitioned this season from possessing a track and field athlete's fragile sensibility - Scott was a high school sprinter - to understanding that football is all about playing with pain.
"I think this time of year everybody is beat up a little bit," Friedgen said. "Everybody has got some injury that is bothering them."
Scott has been wearing a yellow jersey in practice so the defense knows to avoid contact with him. Coaches have lightened up on contact drills for the entire team lately to allow bodies to heal.
Doctors have said it would take three to four weeks without contact for Scott to be at 100 percent.
But Maryland doesn't have the luxury of sitting Scott for that long. Not with four regular-season games remaining and the Terps clinging to first place in the ACC's Atlantic Division.
The statistics demonstrate Scott's value. He has proven a worthy successor to Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore, who left Maryland last season ranked No. 4 and No. 14, respectively, on the school's career rushing list.
Scott needs to average 56.4 yards over the next five games - including a bowl - to become the seventh Maryland back to rush for 1,000 yards and the first since Chris Downs in 2002.
Maryland's offense can bog down when Scott struggles, as he did in rushing for 36 yards on 11 carries in a 31-0 loss at Virginia.
Scott said the team has kept his spirits up in trying times. After the running back fumbled three times in the first half against Wake Forest, offensive coordinator James Franklin loudly announced to all the players at halftime that Maryland wasn't going to stop giving Scott the ball.
Scott finished with 73 yards on 18 carries.
"The team kept me up. That's how I got through the second half," Scott said.
Notes: : Friedgen said he expects injured Hokies quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon to be ready for the game. Third-stringer Cory Holt, a converted wide receiver, would start if Taylor and Glennon's ankle sprains keep them out. ... Friedgen said the Terps planned to arrive at the team hotel later than usual to limit down time. Maryland is 0-2 in night games, and Friedgen said he wants to minimize time spent "waiting around."
MARYLAND @VIRGINIA TECH
Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.
Line: Virginia Tech by 3 1/2