- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2005

Everybody knew Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick has a stronger arm than fabled brother Mike but can’t devastate defenders by scrambling hither, thither and yon as well.

Everybody but Marcus.

The talented junior dashed Maryland dizzy last night, skittering for a career-high 133 yards on 16 carries, including an 8-yard touchdown scamper, as the third-ranked Hokies rolled to a 28-9 “Vick-tory” before 54,838 at Byrd Stadium.

Oh yes, he also completed 14 of 23 passes for 211 yards.

During Virginia Tech’s first six victories, Vick did relatively little damage with his feet while passing for 1,043 yards and 10 touchdowns. Last night, though, he tripped the light fantastic like a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers offspring — and those puzzled adults scratching their heads on the Terrapins’ sideline undoubtedly were head man Ralph Friedgen and defensive coordinator Gary Blackney.

Maybe they shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, scrambling apparently is in the family’s genes, even if Marcus acted for a while as though he wanted to be a different sort of quarterback than Hokies predecessor and Atlanta Falcons savior Mike.

Despite the one-sided final score, Virginia Tech needed Vick’s production. Maryland gave the mighty Hokies all they could handle for much of the night, but the Terps simply lacked enough offense punch to win.

At the finish, the Hokies were flexing their muscles with a 25-point victory that followed romps by 45, 45, 44, 17 and 27 in their previous five games. Unfortunately for its faithful, Virginia Tech faces an uphill route to the BCS title game at the Rose Bowl unless No. 2 Texas is upset. (Or if, heaven forbid, somebody hands top-ranked Southern California the kind of haymaker Notre Dame nearly did last week.) But there is no denying the achievements of coach Frank Beamer, who could serve as a poster boy for not discarding your coach at the first whiffs of smelly football.

After succeeding Bill Dooley in 1987, Beamer went a snappy 24-40-2 during his first six seasons as fans and media howled for his head. Since then, he has gone 118-37, winning one national title, two Big East titles and an ACC crown in his first league season.

Longtime Beamer buddy Friedgen has gone the other way recently at Maryland. In his first three seasons, the Terps were 31-8 and went to three bowl games. But during the last two campaigns, they’re 9-9 — numbers that won’t exactly cause dancing along Route 1 in College Park.

The Terps continue to fight hard and frequently play to the best of their ability, but clearly there remains a gap between their program and those that win big year after year. The next time longtime close friends Beamer and Friedgen meet, maybe Frank could supply a few suggestions.

Then again, the formula for achieving success in Division 1-A football is pretty basic. All you need to do is recruit bigger and better athletes than the next guy and keep ‘em in school.

Of course, itisn’t really that simple. Beamer, for one, probably still shudders when he recollects how close Vick came to washing out in Blacksburg because of legal problems.

After seeing spot duty in 11 games as a freshman, the young man was suspended from all university activities for last fall because of legal issues. When he returned to the field for spring practice, he was No. 3 on the quarterback depth chart — a status that quickly disappeared when he crouched behind center.

Football coaches being the strange breed they are, it’s unlikely that Friedgen and Beamer hugged at midfield following the game. Yet the result certainly won’t interrupt their friendship.

Friedgen and Beamer go w-a-a-y back, all the way to six seasons together as assistants at The Citadel (1973-78), plus one year at Murray State (not to be confused with Murry’s Steaks) when Frankie hired Ralphie as his No. 1 assistant.

Don’t get the idea that the two pals enjoy playing each other — far from it. But given the proximity of their two states, and their similar ambitions on a national scale, the schools are sort of locked into hunkering down on the same field at the same time.

Friedgen keeps staring across the field and spotting pals on the other sideline. The Terps opened the season against Navy, coached by his friend Paul Johnson, and Friedgen has buds scattered all around the ACC dating back to his days as an assistant at Georgia Tech.

“Would you rather coach against somebody you disliked?” he was asked at his media luncheon Tuesday.

Replied the Terps’ gridiron guru, no slouch with a one-liner: “It might be the other way around — a lot of guys don’t like me.”

A football coach with a sense of humor? What’s next, a comedian with paranoia?

As far as his relationship with Beamer is concerned, there is plenty of admiration as well as friendship on Friedgen’s part.

“He’s an inspiration to me,” the Fridge explained. “If Frank can build a program like he has in Blacksburg, what could we do at the University of Maryland?”

A great deal perhaps — but not quite yet.


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