Ralph on deferring or taking the ball

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Sometimes, questions that seem smart come out dumb and get me an odd look from Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.

And sometimes the reverse is true.

The subject of deferring after winning the coin toss came up here last week. And since things were reasonably low-key (and even jovial) last Thursday, I asked Friedgen about that minute detail.

“Good question,” he started.

And that’s when I knew I (and you) would get a good, detailed answer.

“My natural instinct is not to defer,” Friedgen said. “I would want the ball. The first thing I consider when I do that is what’s the weather like, what’s the wind? I even look at what it’s going to be in the second half and try to predict that. If you’re playing a good offensive team, sometimes it’s better to take the ball. Then if you’re not confident in your offense –

“It’s all about field position.”

(That’s going to be the theme of much of this – the idea it’s better to start your first drive on your 40 than your 20 if your defense can hold up on the first set of downs. Now back to Ralph)

“We had a little bit of a wind [against California] because I was debating taking the football because I knew they were very good on offense. I thought Obi [Egekeze] could kick it in the end zone, which he did. So they got the ball on the 20 yard line, they went three-and-out, and we got the ball on our 40 yard line. It turned out real good because we went 60 yards for a touchdown, then intercepted a pass. All of that with the wind. We had 21 points with the wind just like that.”

So that’s a valid argument, though I’m not convinced that it explains why Maryland has not elected to receive since Sept. 24, 2005, at Wake Forest. (When I told him that stat, Friedgen gave me an odd look and the sort of “Is that right?” you’d normally reserve to humor a 5-year-old who is prattling on about dinosaurs. Tough to blame him.)

It also gave Ralph the chance to spin one of his favorite yarns about George O’Leary, which I’ll go ahead and post for posterity’s sake here:

“We were playing Maryland when I was at Georgia Tech. We deferred and we’re winning pretty good. He kicks off the second half. So I said ‘Hey, we’re supposed to get the ball in the second half.’ He goes ‘We’ll get it in the fourth quarter.’ I go ‘This thing’s going to be over in the third.’ I don’t know if he knew something I didn’t, but we kicked off both halves.”

Patrick Stevens

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