Injuries Key As Terps, Hokies Meet After 12-day Layoffs
By Todd McElwee
To all those football pollsters who cast Maryland on their ballots, quarterback Chris Turner and his teammates extend their thanks for the recognition. However, there will be little celebration as the No. 23 Terrapins are more concerned with Thursday's visit to Virginia Tech and finishing out the 2008 campaign than their ascension into national rankings.
|Ralph Friedgen's Terps have lost the last three meetings against Virginia Tech.
"We appreciate it, but at the same time it doesn't mean that much," Turner said. "It's not going to change the way we play."
Rankings usually aren't worth the paper they're printed on and nobody knows this better than Turner and the Terps. Maryland has won five straight games against Top 25 adversaries (Rutgers, Boston College, California, Clemson and Wake Forrest). Along with Texas, the Terps are the only team to dispatch three ranked opponents this season.
"I think the fact that we've beat so many ranked teams mean that rankings don't really mean that much," said Turner, who has never lost to a ranked team.
At kickoff, 12 days will have passed since both Maryland and Virginia Tech took the field. On Oct. 25, the Terps pulled out a dramatic 27-24 victory over North Carolina State while the Hokies fell to Florida State, 30-20.
Fresh off identical layoffs, the combatants enter the game under very different circumstances. Maryland (6-2, 3-1) has won two straight and sits alone atop the ACC Atlantic Division. After dropping consecutive games, Virginia Tech (5-3, 2-2) has fallen to fourth in the Coastal.
"It's a huge game," Turner said. "National TV, and we're ranked for the first time in a long time. So there's a lot at stake, I think."
The Hokies are wounded. Their top two quarterbacks, Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon, were sidelined by left ankle sprains against the Seminoles. Third string signal-caller Cory Holt threw for 28 yards and a touchdown on 3-for-6 passing in relief.
Terps defensive lineman Jeremy Navarre said Tech's quarterback quandary hasn't affected his unit's preparation.
No matter who's behind center, the Hokies have found trouble putting the ball in the end zone. Last in the ACC in total offense, they rely heavily on their rushing attack, which might be devoid of Taylor's 442 yards and two touchdowns, as well as placekicker Dustin Keys and his conference-best 19 field goals. Darren Evans has accounted for over 500 yards and eight scores on the ground.
For the Terps, Da'Rel Scott, the ACC's leading rusher with 102.6 yards per game, is questionable with a shoulder injury. Scott needs to average just over 56 yards in his final five outings to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier.
Despite Tech's shortcomings, Thursday nights at Lane Stadium remain a preeminent showcase in collegiate football. The Hokies are 15-5 all time on Thursdays, and 8-2 at home during ESPN Thursday evening telecasts, including a 55-6 drubbing of the Terps in 2004.
Maryland has dropped both its night games this season. On Sept. 6 the Terps fell at Middle Tennessee State, 24-14. Approximately a month later (Oct.4), Maryland was shut out by Virginia 31-0 in Charlottesville.
The Terps lead the all-time series with Virginia Tech, 15-13. However, Tech has taken the past three meetings. Maryland is 4-4 in Blacksburg.
A handful of Terps are in the running for postseason honors. Tight end Dan Gronkowski is on the watch list for the John Mackey Award, best tight end, while center Edwin Williams is a candidate for both the Rimington and Lombardi awards.
Posted November 5, 2008