COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — There will probably come a time in his future at Maryland when Shawn Petty plays a role in stopping the high-powered offense of Florida State.
On Saturday, however, Petty’s objective is to attempt to put a dent in the Seminoles’ formidable defense.
Because the Terrapins have already lost four quarterbacks to season-ending injuries, Petty — a converted linebacker — will run the Maryland attack in a third straight game. It’s been a rocky transition for the true freshman, who has fumbled four times and thrown an interception in his two starts.
“I don’t feel like I’ve played too well,” Petty acknowledged Tuesday. “Turnovers is the main thing that’s holding the offense back, and it’s not really helping the defense, either.”
With Petty calling the signals, Maryland (4-6, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost to Georgia Tech 33-13 before falling 45-10 at Clemson last week.
Now the 230-pounder is preparing to face the 10th-ranked Florida State (9-1, 6-1), which owns the nation’s top-ranked defense (242.9 yards per game) and has held opponents under 10 points in five games.
Petty has no aspirations of throwing for five touchdowns. His objective is far simpler.
“Just don’t turn the ball over,” he said. “Whatever I have to do to get my team a win.”
With dreadlocks, a husky frame and left-handed delivery, Petty does not look the part of a typical quarterback. He played the position in high school, but coach Randy Edsall drafted Petty as a linebacker.
Petty was headed toward a redshirt this year before quarterbacks C.J. Brown, Perry Hills, Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe went down with injuries. That made Petty the next man up, putting his development as a Division I linebacker on hold.
“He really had no choice,” Edsall said. “It wasn’t, “Shawn, would you do this?” It was, “Shawn, you’re going to do it.”
Petty was surprised — and delighted. Even though he’s struggled at times and hasn’t produced a victory, he’s been having a blast.
“It’s been a great experience, getting the chance to be on the field as a freshman, just getting to play football,” he said.
It took a while for Petty to understand the terminology and to adjust to the speed of the college game. He’s still getting used to holding the ball with two hands while moving in the pocket. But in the huddle, Petty exudes poise and confidence.
“Abnormally calm,” senior tight end Devonte Campbell said. “It’s pretty surprising considering there are bullets flying around him and a few weeks ago he was playing linebacker, running around not knowing what’s going on.”
Petty is 15 for 30 for 156 yards and three touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 26 yards.
“I think deep down in Shawn’s heart he always thought he was a quarterback,” Edsall said. “He really relished the opportunity to go out there and play.”
His contribution won’t soon be forgotten by Edsall, who said, “For him to step in, it just says a lot about who he is as a person and how tough a competitor he is. His willingness to do what’s best for the team, as a coach that’s what you appreciate.”
Brown, Hills, Burns and Rowe are all underclassmen and expected to be healthy next season. So it would appear as if, barring another zany year of injuries at the quarterback position, Petty will spend the rest of his college career on the other side of the ball.
“I still think he’s going to be a pretty good linebacker,” Edsall said.
NOTES: WR Stefon Diggs (foot injury) and leading rusher Wes Brown (ankle), who both sat out the Clemson game, will be evaluated this week. Edsall hopes to know by Thursday if they will be available against FSU. … Saturday’s game in Senior Day for Maryland. The team’s 17 upperclassmen will be honored before the game. … The Terrapins have lost five straight to the Seminoles and are 2-20 in the series.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)