COLLEGE PARK -- It was Oct. 7, 1989, a day most of the University of Maryland players remember as the longest in a season that already had gone sour.
On that afternoon, Maryland lost to Georgia Tech, 28-24, as the Yellow Jackets ended a 16-game Atlantic Coast Conference losing streak. Maryland dropped to 1-5.
It wasn't so much the loss, as the celebration that followed.
Most of the crowd of 32,062 at Bobby Dodd Stadium came onto the field. They tore down the goal posts, and Georgia Tech players carried off coach Bobby Ross. .
"It was a very low time for this team, definitely the low point of last season," said Maryland senior Jack Bradford, an outside linebacker. "Nobody played well that day. I was really disappointed after that game. That's why I'm glad we get another shot at them again. I got something to prove to myself."
Maryland (3-2, 1-1) will play No. 23 Georgia Tech (3-0, 1-0) Saturday at noon at Byrd Stadium. But there is more to this game for the Terps than just avenging last season's loss.
It is the beginning of a four-game conference stretch for the Terps that also includes Wake Forest, Duke and North Carolina. TC Also, although Ross left Maryland for Georgia Tech after the 1986 season, there still are a few players he recruited who would enjoy beating their former coach.
First though, there is revenge for last season's loss.
"It was a depressing loss because we had them beat and we gave it to them," said Michael Jarmolowich, Terps inside linebacker. "I remember them tearing down the goal post, and that adds a little incentive. Maybe this year we'll rip our goal posts down and let them see how it feels."
Beating Georgia Tech won't be easy. Since beating Maryland, the Yellow Jackets have won 10 of their past 11 games.
Georgia Tech is second in the conference in scoring defense (9.3 points a game) and first in pass defense (130.3 yards per game). The defense, led by inside linebackers Jerrelle Williams and Calvin Tiggle, cornerbacks Willie Clay and Keith Holmes and safeties Ken Swilling and Thomas Balkcom, hasn't allowed a touchdown.
Then there is sophomore Shawn Jones, the kind of quarterback -- strong, mobile and talented on the option -- that gives Maryland trouble. Jones has completed 35 of 62 passes for 524 yards and three touchdowns. Georgia Tech is averaging 359 yards of total offense.
Last year, the Yellow Jackets were spurred on by the comments of then-Maryland quarterback Neil O'Donnell, who, after the 41-21 loss to Michigan in 1989, said the Terps were ready to "punish some people" as they continued their ACC schedule.
Next were the Yellow Jackets, who posted the comments all over their locker room.
This year, they are motivated by a national ranking.
"We should never have a letdown as long as we continue to play," Ross said. "It's one thing to get there. It's another thing to stay there. Obviously, if we don't beat Maryland, we won't stay there."
Jarmolowich said: "Since they have beaten us, they have been on a roll. Since we started it, I sure wouldn't mind stopping it."
First, Maryland has to stop committing turnovers. In Saturday's 45-17 loss to Michigan, Maryland committed six turnovers, five by Zolak (three interceptions, two lost fumbles). Zolak's turnovers contributed to 17 Michigan points and cost the Terps a possible touchdown or at least a field-goal attempt a minute before the half.
Maryland coach Joe Krivak said that if Terps make the same mistakes against Georgia Tech, the outcome would be another loss, one that could severely hurt Maryland's chances for an ACC title.
"This will be the fourth team out of the last six where we will play a nationally ranked team," said Krivak. "Georgia Tech is very sound. I don't like to have must games and critical games -- I leave that stuff to the media -- but this is an important game. We know it, and they know it.
"I told the team that everything, in terms of the Atlantic Coast Conference, is there for us. In that sense, we control our own destiny."
Krivak said the game will be a battle of Maryland's offense against Georgia Tech's defense. The Terps are third in the conference in total offense, averaging 366.8 yards. Zolak leads the conference in total offense (256.6 yards), and the Terps have three players -- H-back Frank Wycheck (league-leading 8.4 catches), flanker Barry Johnson (3.2) and tight end Bret Boehly (2.8) -- among the conference's top 10. Boehly, however, is listed as doubtful for the game with bruised ribs.
"This is a really big game for us," said Bradford. "We've got to win this one to stay in the conference race. It's also against my old coach, and it's the last time we play them. I don't want to go out as a loser."
* Georgia Tech officials said four players, including three starters -- Jones (sprained foot), defensive tackle Jerimiah McClary (bruised ribs) and running back William Bell (hamstring) -- are listed as questionable.