Sparks Flying

Although neither would publicly admit it, there doesn't seem to be much doubt that there's at least an undercurrent of animosity between the head coaches of Maryland and West Virginia.

Ralph Friedgen and Rich Rodriguez both came to their respective schools with reputations as freethinking offensive coaches that can innovate with the best minds in the country. And as in any situation where two alphas meet, there's inevitably friction.

It's nothing overt, of course. But a close examination of subtext, some reading between the lines, and a bit of careful consideration is all it takes to see that each loves nothing more than sticking the needle in his border rival.

Over the past few years, Friedgen has taken several thinly veiled shots at WVU and its offensive scheme. After the Terps' win in College Park two years ago, he made some disparaging comments about West Virginia's "gimmicky" offensive attack, and noted that while WVU might move the ball with it, it would never score consistently with what he considered an unsound philosophy.

Rodriguez, being on the losing end of most of those encounters, didn't have much to say in response, but you could tell that it bothered him. WVU's passionate coach doesn't hide his emotions very well, and there wasn't much doubt that the comments struck a nerve.

Of course, it's not as if the Maryland-West Virginia animosity is anything new. In the Don Nehlen era, assistants from both schools in the press box had a confrontation that reportedly resulted in the two sides being physically restrained, and other incidents, such as failure to release transferring players from scholarships, also heightened the tensions. So it's not really a surprise that emotions run high in what has become one of the hardest-hitting, most physical games on the schedule for both schools.

Saturday, the home team was taking no chances for a repeat performance, as the press box coaches were escorted to and from the locker rooms by multiple security guards. While that might be a standard practice at Byrd Stadium, it was also clear that the guards were there to prevent any sort of contact between the two staffs.

So, with all that as backdrop, there was definitely a little something extra in the air as the Mountaineers and Terrapins took the field on Saturday. And in the end, after WVU had beaten down the home team, it continued.

Friedgen, in his post game comments, took another veiled shot at the West Virginia coaching staff.

"Maybe, after four years, they are starting to see some of our stuff and pick up on it," he said grimly.

Say what you want, but that's a direct shot at the talent and ability of the WVU coaching staff. ‘It takes you four years to figure out what we are doing? You must not be too good.'

Of course, the West Virginia side got the last laugh, and it was easy to see on the faces of the Mountaineer coaches as they came off the field. Smiles were wider than normal, and a few celebratory fist pumps were also in evidence. Leave it to Rodriguez, however, to make the defining statement of the day.

After acknowledging the large Mountaineer crowd in attendance, Rodriguez gathered his team in front of the WVU section and signaled to the band to strike up the fight song. There, in the end zone that WVU assaulted for 24 fourth-quarter points, the Mountaineers sang "Hail West Virginia" at the top of their lungs.

At least a few Maryland-based writers didn't appreciate that show, and made several comments to that effect afterward. They, of course, have probably turned a deaf ear to the utterances of The Fridge over the past few seasons.

Taken in sum, there are probably worse feuds going on in college football these days. However, the verbal barbs and tit for tat actions certainly add spice to what has become a crackling rivalry.

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