- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Beating No. 15 Virginia Tech tomorrow night is essential to Maryland’s quest for a winning season and a bowl bid. However, coach Ralph Friedgen yesterday rebuffed questions over its importance in maintaining the program’s success.

“When you say ‘critical,’ are you saying the demise of our program? I don’t think it will be the demise of our program,” he said. “It’s significant in the fact it gives us a chance to go to a bowl and have a winning season.”

The Terrapins have wanted to play nationally televised late-season games since Friedgen’s 2001 arrival. However, losing to the ACC-leading Hokies (7-2, 4-1 ACC) would end any postseason hopes for the Terps (4-5, 2-4). Maryland is 1-3 on the road and just 1-4 overall since Sept.25 while scoring a total of 37 points over that span.

Maryland will have had 12 days to prepare for Virginia Tech since losing at No.18 Virginia 16-0 on Nov.6. The Terps were a bit sluggish at first but have improved steadily in closed workouts. Maybe they can rekindle the same spark that produced a 20-17 upset of No.5 Florida State on Oct.30. The Terps finished strongly during Friedgen’s first three seasons.

“If we can beat a top-five team, we can beat anybody,” cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. “It would be a grave disappointment in my personal career not going to a bowl game, but I feel confident of having a good four years here. It’s not the end of the world [if we don’t reach a bowl], but it’s definitely important to me and this team.”

Said offensive tackle Lou Lombardo: “Thursday night is going to be the result of our season. We have a two-game season to go to a bowl game. Virginia Tech needs to hold onto sole possession of first place, so emotion will be running high.”

The game could mark the start of another heated rivalry after an 11-year hiatus. The teams have played only twice since 1950 after meeting regularly for 30 years as members of the Southern Conference. Maryland last won at Virginia Tech in 1949.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer and Friedgen have been friends since 1972, when both were Maryland graduate assistants under coach Jerry Claiborne. It’s their first meeting as head coaches, but Friedgen expects Virginia Tech to join Virginia and West Virginia as Maryland’s regional rivals.

“I think because of Frank and my relationship, it will develop into a rivalry just because of that,” he said. “But it’s also a bordering state. It’s probably good we are playing each other because of fan interest in the game year-in and year-out.”

This isn’t the first time Beamer and Friedgen have met in the series, though. Both were members of freshman teams that played the first game ever at Lane Stadium in 1965. However, neither saw action.

Mea culpa

Friedgen said an offseason review probably will mean increasingly physical practices next year. Saying the staff needs fresh ideas, Friedgen felt complacency might have undermined this season.

“I’m going to look really hard at myself,” he said. “There’s probably things I’ve gotten complacent with given we’re a staff that has been together [for four years]. I think I’ll get our staff to visit other people and bring back some thoughts and see what other people are doing.

“I blame myself. We’re not as fundamentally sound as we should be on the offensive side of the ball. That’s gotta be me getting the right stuff in practice. I did let up and changed some things in practices because [my assistants] thought we were having too tough practices. Maybe I let myself get talked into things I won’t do again.”

Extra points

Maryland will play William and Mary at Byrd Stadium in 2006 in a one-game series. The Terps are close to signing a three-year deal with Middle Tennessee State starting in 2006. Maryland also expects to play Eastern Michigan in coming years. …

Receiver JoJo Walker (concussion) and defensive end Kevin Eli (ankle) are questionable against Virginia Tech. Receivers Drew Weatherly (hamstring) and Dan Melendez (hamstring) are doubtful. … Several players will run track during spring meets, including safety Josh Wilson, running back Josh Allen and punter Adam Podlesh.

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