COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- As Maryland's players ran out of the tunnel and onto the field at Byrd Stadium on Saturday to face Georgia Tech, three quarterbacks on crutches watched from their seats in the academic center, which overlooks the field.
This would certainly be a lesson in history.
The Terps’ fifth-string quarterback -- a former scout team linebacker who practiced at quarterback just seven times this season -- was leading the pack as they sprinted across the field and toward the student section.
True freshman Shawn Petty, just one year removed from nearby Eleanor Roosevelt High School, became the third different quarterback to start a game this year after season-ending injuries to C.J. Brown, Perry Hills, Devin Burns, and most recently, Caleb Rowe. It was the first time since 1973 that Maryland had used three different starting quarterbacks in a season.
“I’ve never had it happen before,” coach Randy Edsall said, “and I hope I never have it happen again.”
Not surprisingly, Maryland lost, 33-13.
Surprisingly, it was because of the defense.
Petty, who did a respectable job managing the offense, running the zone-read plays and simply avoiding disaster in his first college game at any position, completed 9 of 18 passes for 115 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The staff helped him out with a simplified, color-coded cheat-sheet wristband, and their own version of the Wildcat offense, the “Wild Crab.” Maryland’s no-huddle offense huddled for the first time all season. The offensive linemen were asked to help read the defense. From one half to the next, Petty grew visibly more comfortable.
“He stood up and took on the role like a man,” said tailback Wes Brown, who orchestrated the “Wild Crab.”
Had the Terps’ defense been able to make a stop, it might have been a closer game. With no more eligible scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, the goal was to keep it a low-scoring game. Instead, Maryland had no answer for the Jackets’ toss sweep, the Terps didn’t tackle well, and Georgia Tech rushed for more than 300 yards for the fifth time this season and finished with 401 yards of total offense.
Petty? He never once lost his composure, despite being sacked four times, and getting off to a rough start while he adjusted to the speed of the game.
“He never had the big eyes,” Edsall said. “He never had the flustered look on his face when he came off the sidelines.”
He did, however, have to come off the field briefly for an injury.
Edsall was asked on Saturday to confirm that. He pursed his lips together in a tight smile and slowly nodded.
Anything else on it?
Edsall shook his head no.
“He came back in and played,” Edsall said.
And he is expected to play a lot more as the Terps head into their toughest stretch of the season, starting with back-to-back games against Atlantic Division leaders Clemson and Florida State. As Edsall and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley walked off the field together Saturday, Edsall said to his coordinator, “We know what we can do with [Petty] now.”
The staff didn’t do anything Petty wasn’t comfortable with against Georgia Tech, but Edsall said they had too many plays installed and will narrow it down a bit. Petty said he spent lots of extra time this past week in the film room and on the field with his receivers trying to quickly learn the offense and the terminology.
“It was a full-time job,” said Petty, who hadn’t thrown a pass in a game since last November, when was a quarterback in high school. “I had to get my arm back at first. They were out there with me, making sure I could get the ball off, making sure I got all the plays right, telling me how I needed to throw it, if I’m throwing it behind or late to get it off faster, different things like that.”
It wasn’t until the waning seconds of the first half that Maryland found its way into Georgia Tech territory for the first time, and Petty was sacked for a loss of 8 yards.
“You just don’t go out and line up at this level only having seven practices and think that everything is going to happen the way you hope it happens,” said Edsall, a former Syracuse quarterback.
Just as long as it happens again with the same quarterback.