History lesson

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Ralph Friedgen

\ “We had a guy named Frank Reich. …,” Friedgen began, and anyone who knew anything about that guy’s history knew where this tale was going.\

\ The official historian of the Gossett Football Team House might as well be reading from the script of the 1984 Maryland team filmstrip (or whatever they put together to commemorate the highlights of seasons in 1984). But here are the pertinent details:\

\ * Reich starts the first two games and the Terps lose. Reich is injured and Stan Gelbaugh takes over.\

\ * With Gelbaugh, Maryland wins five of the next six while “averaging about 38 points a game.” (well, 33.8, but close enough).\

\ * Reich is healthy and comes into garbage time in a victory at North Carolina. Ralph, then the offensive coordinator, speaks with Reich’s disgruntled dad after the game. After a brief conversation that included Ralph saying Reich would eventually be needed, Friedgen asks an innocuous question.\

\ “I said ‘You coming to the game next week?’” Friedgen recalled. “He said ‘I’m not driving all the way to Miami to see my kid sit on the bench.’”\

\ * Reich, of course, delivered one of his two famous comebacks in that game.\

\ “Frank came in the second half of Miami, we’re losing 31-0 and in what used to be the greatest comeback in college football history and scored seven straight times,” Friedgen said. “We were an even better team when Frank was in there because we beat Virginia 42-7 and we came back and beat Tennessee in the Sun Bowl, and we beat Clemson 45-20 in Memorial Stadium. That was the next game.”\

\ (The official historian’s memory is a bit fuzzy on the details. A childhood of listening to Richie Ashburn call Phillies games - and by that, I mean bad Phillies games - taught me that sometimes it’s best not to let the facts stand in the way of a good story. Especially when someone is rolling like Ralph was yesterday.\

\ Still, it’s fun to dissect how well someone remembers things. The real Clemson score - 41-23 - is close enough. The real Virginia score - 45-34 - is not. That is also not close to the likely final in this week’s scrum, but that’s a topic for another blog post).\

\ Which brings us back to Steffy, who increasingly looks like he has been Wally Pipped thanks to Rutgers safety Joe Lefeged’s helmet-to-helmet greeting and salutation on Sept. 29 in stately Piscataway, N.J. \

\ Steffy worked some at practice yesterday, and would be an emergency option on Saturday should he be cleared. Friedgen himself is reluctant to make a long-term call; he demurred when asked if Turner was “his guy” on Tuesday and deferred again yesterday.\

\ “Everybody wants me to say this is the guy and like I said earlier, I think that’s a good sign,” Friedgen said. “We might have two guys who make each other better, and I’m still going to keep it as a competitive situation. We’ll just have to see how that goes.”\

\ Might is the operating word there. Maybe the Terps will be forced to find out. Maybe they won’t.\

\ But as surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, you can bet Ralph won’t want to be down 31-0 to anyone in order to find out.\

\ – Patrick Stevens\

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