Maryland coach Randy Edsall on Sunday endorsed C.J. Brown as the starting quarterback, but he said the Terps' inexperienced receivers need to provide better support after being elevated to starters due to injuries.
Brown, a fifth-year senior, has missed two of the past three games due to injuries. He sustained a concussion against Florida State on Oct. 5 and an upper body injury two weeks later at Wake Forest. In Saturday's 40-27 loss to Clemson, with Brown on the sideline, sophomore Caleb Rowe completed 19 of 45 passes for 282 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Edsall sought to head off media speculation during the bye week about the starting job. Assuming Brown is healthy, "C.J.'s our quarterback. C.J. will be our starter," Edsall said.
Maryland next plays Nov. 9 against Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) at Byrd Stadium. After starting the season with four straight wins, the Terps (5-3, 1-3 ACC) remain one game shy of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
"We want to get to a bowl game — get enough wins to get to a bowl game," Edsall told reporters Sunday. "If that's not motivation enough for you, then we don't have the right people."
The Terps lost top wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long for the season against Wake Forest. Long broke his tibia and fibula in his right leg, while Diggs later broke the fibula in his right leg. The two players had combined for 66 catches, 1,076 yards and four touchdowns before the injuries.
Another receiver — freshman DeAndre' Lane — was unavailable Saturday against Clemson because of a concussion.
Diggs and Long were both on crutches and watched Saturday's homecoming game from the Gossett Football Team House.
When Diggs and Long are healthy, Edsall encourages his quarterbacks to take deep shots to give the pair a chance to show off their athleticism by fighting off defenders to make catches.
Rowe attempted a number of deep throws Saturday but had little success in the second half as the Terps attempted to stay in the game. His primary targets included: sophomores Levern Jacobs and Nigel King and redshirt freshmen Amba Etta-Tawo and Malcolm Culmer. Daniel Adams, a transfer from New Mexico, played for the first time in his Maryland career.
"I thought they were inconsistent," Edsall said Sunday of the receivers. "I thought they made some really nice plays. And then I thought there were some plays to be made that they didn't make."
Of Rowe, who lost a fumble in addition to the two interceptions, Edsall said: "Right now he's turning the ball over too much."
Rowe did complete a 71-yard scoring pass to Jacobs in the first quarter to give the Terps a 7-3 lead. He also threw two late touchdown passes — one each to Etta-Tawo and King.
Jacobs had eight catches for 158 yards in the loss, and the wide receiver spoke about his familiarity with Rowe.
"Caleb's my roommate, so that kind of helps … in the chemistry together," Jacobs said. "We kind of already have got a feel together. All summer I've been working with him."
After Jacobs, it remains to be seen which of the receivers may become a consistent target for Brown or Rowe.
"Nigel is a big guy, big target," said safety Sean Davis, who has often practiced against the sophomore during the week. "Amba uses his speed. Malcolm is a shifty guy in the middle. And Daniel is also a big target. We do have weapons."