Terps need sting to get fans buzzing Upset of Jackets here would boost profile

October 31, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

On paper, the Maryland-Georgia Tech game today at Ravens stadium looks like just another opportunity for a nationally ranked team to impress the pollsters with a runaway victory over an also-ran.

But there will be a lot at stake for the 2-5 Terps and the No. 23-ranked Yellow Jackets today when they take the field at noon for the first NCAA Division I-A football game at the new stadium.

Maryland is in desperate need of a big victory to make people believe second-year coach Ron Vanderlinden has his program on the right track. The Terps have lost three straight and fallen to last place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with an 0-4 record.

A win for Maryland today amid all the NFL grandeur that is Ravens stadium in Baltimore would give the team a dramatic new start in the school's quest to cultivate football in this city.

Imagine how freshman quarterback Randall Jones and his teammates could electrify the Baltimore crowd if they could upset 5-2 Georgia Tech.

Jones and redshirt freshman linebacker Aaron Thompson are naturals for this game. Jones lives just 40 miles from the stadium in Frederick, and Thompson grew up and played high school football only a few miles from the field.

Also, it is Maryland's final opportunity to knock off a nationally ranked team this season after flirting with upsets over No. 5 Florida State and No. 15 Virginia.

Maryland has lost 28 straight games to nationally ranked schools, with its last victory over a ranked team coming in 1990. Virginia was ranked No. 8 then when Maryland pulled off a 35-30 stunner.

Terps coach Ron Vanderlinden called today's game "a win-win situation for everybody. It should be a win-win for the Ravens. It should be a great game for the University of Maryland and the state of Maryland as well. It's a great relationship between the University of Maryland and the city of Baltimore and the great football tradition that exists here."

For Georgia Tech, the ACC championship is on the line over the next three games as it takes a 4-1 league record into today.

The Yellow Jackets are locked in a three-way tie for first with Florida State and Virginia and are favored to run the table with wins over the Terps, Clemson and Wake Forest.

That would most likely give Georgia Tech a share of the ACC title with the winner of next week's Seminoles-Virginia game at Florida State.

Also, there is the added incentive for the Yellow Jackets to spoil Maryland's dreams of making a big splash in a big city, and taking the historic first NCAA Division I-A win at the Ravens stadium back to Atlanta with them.

Georgia Tech's chances of avoiding an upset today were greatly enhanced this week when junior quarterback Joe Hamilton quickly recovered from a hip pointer he suffered in a 34-7 loss to Florida State last week.

Yellow Jackets coach George O'Leary said Hamilton "fell on the hip the wrong way" after getting sacked by the speedy Seminoles.

"He couldn't move much after getting hit and we had to take him out after he stayed in the game for four plays," said O'Leary. "He was only about 70 percent and that isn't enough against a very fast Florida State team."

O'Leary said he told his offensive line this week that "their job is to make sure Joe doesn't get hit again. He was moving around good in practice and is ready."

Hamilton continues to lead the ACC in passing efficiency and is second behind N.C. State's Jamie Barnette in total offense. He has completed 88 of 158 passes (56 percent) for 1,496 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Hamilton's favorite target is sophomore split end Dez White, who is second in the league in receiving yards with 112 a game.

Hamilton and White have prospered the last two seasons under the guidance of offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, who is in his second stint at Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets lead the ACC in scoring with 36 points a game, which ranks them 13th in the nation.

Friedgen returned to Tech last season after serving 15 straight years as an assistant to Bobby Ross at Maryland, Georgia Tech and the San Diego Chargers.

Terps today

Opponent: No. 23 Georgia Tech

Site: Ravens stadium

Time: Noon

TV/Radio: Ch. 24/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Georgia Tech by 12

Pub Date: 10/31/98

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