Even counting Virginia, Terrapins are unrivaled

Maryland Football

October 03, 2008|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,jeff.barker@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK - If Auburn has Alabama and Arizona has Arizona State, then who does Maryland have?

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was asked before the season about the sort of in-state rivalry games that make players and fans giddy - obnoxious, even - just talking about them.

"We don't have," Friedgen began, then paused and started again. "When I was at Georgia Tech, we played Georgia. I loved that game. That's what gets the crowds going."

If Friedgen sounded wistful, he's not the only one.

Maryland (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) travels tomorrow to Virginia (1-3, 0-1), the closest thing the Terrapins have to a traditional adversary.

Maryland fans clearly enjoy the annual Virginia game. But they know that the Cavaliers' true rival is Virginia Tech, not Maryland.

Like a spouse with a wandering eye, Terps fans openly wonder whether their team should shop for a hated enemy it can call its own.

Maryland-Virginia "just doesn't seem to have the intensity of a rivalry game, and I've been through more than 35 years of them," Terps fan Eric Bender of Hagerstown said in an e-mail interview. Like many fans, he said he would like to see Maryland playing West Virginia and Penn State.

The Mountaineers return to Maryland's schedule in 2010.

Friedgen said he wants to play Penn State, but the schools have been unable to agree on games. He said Penn State had proposed a deal in which the Nittany Lions would get two home games to Maryland's one.

But Penn State athletics spokesman Jeff Nelson said yesterday, "We have had discussions with Maryland about playing but have not asked for a two-for-one at any time in those discussions."

One way to break a stalemate, Maryland officials said, might be to schedule a game at a neutral site. That would be a simpler negotiation than deciding how to set up a home-and-home series.

Penn State beat Maryland, 70-7, in 1993, the last time they played. Scheduling Maryland got more complicated after the Big Ten voted in 1990 to accept Penn State.

Let's not undermine Maryland-Virginia too much. The series has plenty of history. The two schools have met every season since 1957, and there's no team the Terps have played more.

There has been drama - Virginia's 18-17, last-minute victory in 2007 and Maryland's memorable comeback in a 28-26 win in 2006. There was certainly passion in those games, not to mention the 2003 contest in which Virginia coach Al Groh and Maryland assistant James Franklin had an animated exchange after the Terps claimed that a Virginia player ran through their pre-game drills.

Maryland center Edwin Williams remembers that dispute.

"I was a high school kid, and I was like, 'Yeah, I just can't wait to come to Maryland, man.' That's the way I like it."

If something's missing, it is that Virginia is already spoken for as a rival.

"They have Virginia Tech as an in-state rivalry," Friedgen said this week, "but I think we're their out-of-state rivalry."

If the Terps need more motivation, Friedgen said they can find it in the opportunity to win their second straight ACC road game heading into the bye week.

"I get fired up for Virginia," quarterback Chris Turner said. "It would be nice to have UCLA-USC, but this is what we've got."

Finding a new Maryland rival would be problematic, Maryland graduate and Terps fan Nelson Ormsby said in an e-mail.

He said Clemson has South Carolina, Navy has Army, "and the list goes on and on."

MARYLAND @VIRGINIA

Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM

Line: Maryland by 13 1/2

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