Va Tech seeks strong finish; Terps eye big upset
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP)Although no longer a candidate for the national championship, No. 20 Virginia Tech still has several worthwhile goals within reach.
Successive losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina last month ruined the Hokies' bid to finish No. 1, but Virginia Tech remains in contention to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game. Even if that doesn't happen, the Hokies (6-3, 3-2) can earn a berth in a New Year's Day bowl and complete a sixth consecutive 10-win season.
Those kind of objectives are no longer viable for the Terrapins (2-7, 1-4). Maryland is already assured a losing record, and there will be no foray into the postseason for Ralph Friedgen's struggling squad.
So the Terrapins have decided to treat Saturday's game against Virginia Tech as their 2009 bowl game.
"That's a good way of looking at it. This is a big game for us, having a ranked opponent coming in," senior defensive tackle Travis Ivey said. "I think (winning) would be an accomplishment. One of the goals we had at the beginning of the season was to beat Virginia Tech. That's the last remaining goal we have on the board. Everything's not lost yet. We have another week to accomplish the goal."
The atmosphere couldn't be better for Maryland. A near sellout is expected, and fans have been encouraged to crank up the spirit for this once-a-year "Blackout" game.
The Terrapins will wear black and desert camouflage uniforms, a tribute to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services for injured service members and their families.
"I think it brings an added dimension to the game. Knowing we're playing not just for ourselves, but for wounded veterans, I think it will encourage us to persevere because that's their life," Ivey said. "I hate to compare what they're going through to what we're going through, but we expected to have a good season at the beginning, just like they expected to come back from Iraq unscathed. But circumstances change, and you have to go on with the rest of your life."
The quarterback position was supposed to be the one constant during this rebuilding season for Maryland, but that's changed, too. Senior Chris Turner hurt his knee in last week's loss to North Carolina State, and although he hopes to return Saturday, sophomore Jamarr Robinson will probably receive his first college start after playing a relief role against the Wolfpack.
"Whether Chris plays or not, we're not too worried about it because we know we have two capable quarterbacks," said receiver Torrey Smith, who needs 35 yards to break LaMont Jordan's school record for all-purpose yardage. "Jamarr is going to need that experience and it will be good for our team as far as the future is concerned."
The Hokies are heavy favorites, for good reason. Virginia Tech has won four straight over Maryland, the last three by a collective 106-28 score. But coach Frank Beamer isn't convinced as convinced as the oddsmakers that this one will be a blowout.
"I think you turn on the video and you see the difficulty they bring you, and how close they have been," he said. "I know coach Friedgen. He is a good coach and they got a good staff. This is one we had better be ready for."
Every team Virginia Tech has played thus far currently has a winning record. Maryland does not. But the Hokies can't afford to look past this game if they are to realize their remaining goals.
"If we can finish strong now, we are going to feel good about ourselves," Beamer said. "What we have been able to accomplish, it could have been a lot better, but it could have been a lot worse, too. I'm proud of the way we put effort forth. I just want us to be a good football team in November, I want us to be the best football team we can possibly be in November."
That's not been a problem recently for Virginia Tech. Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hokies are 17-2 in November, including last week's 16-3 win over East Carolina.
"Our spirits are back up. We're back on track," receiver Dyrell Roberts said. "We feel like we're moving in the right direction; our approach now is just finish strong."