Football to face Terrapins
By Christopher Gooley/ Student Publications
Tech ran past Maryland 7-3 last year at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Perhaps the most underappreciated and unknown ACC rivalry is the matchup set to take place in College Park, Md. this weekend. Although this is the 17th meeting between Tech and Maryland since 1988, the rivalry has only taken flight in recent years with the teams splitting the last four games in the series, including last year's Thursday night defensive stand where Tech earned a 7-3 victory.
That home victory for Tech came at the heels of a fantastic defensive effort led by "a lot of blitzing," according to defensive end Travis Parker at Tuesday's press conference. The Jacket defense held Maryland to only 253 yards from scrimmage and forced two interceptions and five fumbles, including one that set up the game's only touchdown in what may have been their best defensive game of last season.
In the post-game conference after the victory, Tech Head Coach Chan Gailey said, "Unbelievable. Unbelievable. You know, they played great and you say that it would be hard for them to play better. They played better this week than they had played before. I was amazed at the job that they did. I was really impressed."
Adding to the rivalry, Maryland Head Coach Ralph Friedgen had a nine-year tenure as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Tech under Bobby Ross and George O'Leary. In addition to the fact that Friedgen and Gailey have been pinned against each other on opposite sidelines three times already on the college gridiron, the two have met on the professional level as well. Friedgen was an offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers and Gailey was a receivers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coincidentally, their record on opposing sides in the NFL was a dead heat, with each team winning twice.
The Tech ties don't end with Friedgen. In addition to the Terps head coach, other members of the Maryland front office have ties to the North Avenue Trade School, such as offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe, who was a graduate assistant in the '70s, defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo, who was the defensive tackles coach under George O'Leary and the latest defector, Bill O'Brien, who had been with the Tech program for several years, which ended in a tenure as offensive coordinator.
Coaches are not the only people Maryland has lured from the state of Georgia; the Terps have five players from the Peach State: guard C.J. Brooks (Morrow HS), linebacker Tim Cesa (Harrison HS), kicker Obi Egekeze (Westside HS), tackle Stephon Heyer (Brookwood HS) and quarterback Joel Statham (Murray Country HS). In contrast, Tech's roster does not include a single player from Maryland.
In order to claim their second road victory for this season, the Jackets will have to snap Maryland's 13-game home winning streak at Byrd Stadium. The Jackets will certainly have plenty of motivation between the blossoming rivalry with the Terrapins and the sense of urgency resulting from the Jackets dropping their past two contests.
Demonstrating the importance of this game, Gailey said, "[The Tech football players] take a lot of pride in their play individually and understand what's at stake for the team and care about that deeply."