Friedgen hopes UM passes latest test from Virginia

Coach emphasizes rivalry going into tonight's game

Friedgen, UM out to pass Virginia test

College Football

November 13, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Two years ago, it seemed like Maryland had finally exorcised its Virginia demons.

Losers in nine straight football games against the Cavaliers entering 2001, the Terps pounded Virginia, 41-21, in College Park. The win not only got Maryland off to its best start since 1978, but suddenly, it was realistic to call the series a rivalry again.

"I think we won a big game in Maryland history," coach Ralph Friedgen said after the win.

Last season, however, the same Cavaliers nightmares resurfaced. Maryland traveled to Charlottesville - with an eight-game winning streak and a shot at the Atlantic Coast Conference title - and got waxed, 48-13.

"It seemed like we couldn't get anything going, and they had all the breaks," said Terps quarterback Scott McBrien. "They were hitting on option passes and reverses and stuff. It really put a damper on our spirits."

But there is hardly any talk of revenge or redemption this week for Maryland's players. In fact, McBrien downplayed any rivalry questions, calling Virginia simply "another team that's in our way."

Michigan vs. Ohio State, it's not.

Tonight's game does have added meaning for Friedgen, though. Maryland's third-year coach has said several times this season he wants the annual clash to evolve into something more significant, if only because Maryland (6-3, 3-2 ACC) doesn't really have an in-state rival.

"Geographically, it makes sense because they're the closest school in the conference," Friedgen said.

It also doesn't hurt that Friedgen and Virginia coach Al Groh have already butted heads during recruiting. Maryland scored a major victory last year by getting an early oral commitment from tight end Vernon Davis of Dunbar High School in Washington, but that didn't stop Virginia (5-4, 3-3) from trying to get him to change his mind before signing day, according to Davis.

When it came out that former Terps coach Rod Sharpless gave money to a recruit, Maryland had to scramble, as Virginia came after Davis again, to make sure he didn't have a change of heart. Craig Jefferies, Davis' high school coach, said he was "very disappointed" with Virginia's coaching staff as a result.

Friedgen took the diplomatic approach when asked this week if there was bad blood over the incident.

"If I got mad at [Groh], I'd have to be mad at about 20 other guys," Friedgen said. "[Vernon] wasn't the only one. Every one of our kids, people went after. I just appreciate the players and their parents for having enough confidence in us as a program and a staff that they stayed with us."

Friedgen's bigger concern tonight is Maryland's health. In yesterday's Sun, it was reported that McBrien was still suffering from a concussion he sustained three weeks ago, but McBrien said yesterday he was commenting to reporters about lingering pain in his groin, not his head.

"I am fine and have had no problems stemming from the concussion," McBrien said.

Wide receiver Derrick Fenner, however, had to have an appendix removed. He won't play tonight, and Friedgen said yesterday he could miss the rest of the season. Fenner has been Maryland's main deep threat this year, averaging 29.8 yards a catch.

On the other side of the ball, Maryland's defense will try to slow down Virginia quarterback Matt Schaub, who threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-37 loss to North Carolina State on Nov. 1. Schaub, a preseason Heisman candidate and the ACC Offensive Player of the Year in 2002, missed three games this season because of a shoulder separation. He has completed 71.7 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,925 yards and 13 touchdowns. Statistically, the Terps' defense is the league's best against the pass, giving up 185 yards a contest.

"We're facing two of the best [quarterbacks] in the country the next two games," said Maryland defensive coordinator Gary Blackney, who will have to prepare for N.C. State's Philip Rivers next week. "It's going to be a great challenge. We've got veteran kids, and at times I think we've played pretty well, but I don't think we've been tested like we're going to be tested tonight."

NOTES: Running back Bruce Perry won't dress for tonight's game because of a sprained ankle. Josh Allen will start, but J.P. Humber and Mario Merrills will also see action. Friedgen said he may use freshman Lance Ball, who is currently redshirting. ... Kevin Ross, son of former Maryland coach Bobby Ross, is the running backs coach at Virginia. ... If Maryland wins, the Terps will finish with an undefeated home record for just the 19th time in 111 seasons. ... Nick Novak needs 16 points in Maryland's final three games to become the school's all-time leading scorer. ... Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson has 100 tackles through nine games this year, three more than E.J. Henderson had at the same point last season.

Tonight's game

Virginia (5-4, 3-3 ACC) at Maryland (6-3, 3-2)

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

Time: 7:45

TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Maryland by 6

Series: Maryland leads 38-27-2

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