Maryland Prepares For Rivalry Game

West Virginia and Maryland square off on Thursday night for the 46th time in the rivalry's history. Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen shared his thoughts on the Mountaineers and the series between the two schools during Wednesday morning's ACC weekly teleconference.

"We're busily preparing for West Virginia," Friedgen said. "It's a short week. We got back late Saturday night from the Florida International game. We're excited about the challenge. We've got a big one ahead of us."

This will be the eighth meeting between the two schools since Friedgen and West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez took over at their respective alma maters. Friedgen and Maryland won the first four meetings, with Rodriguez and West Virginia sweeping the past three. Because each club is so familiar with the other, there shouldn't be many surprises tomorrow night when it comes to X's and O's.

Friedgen, for instance, knows that the Mountaineers will offer a steady diet of Pat White and Steve Slaton, with a dose of Owen Schmitt for good measure.

"You've got two great players, White and Slaton," he explained. "They're very fast. When they run the option play, one's going one direction and one's going the other direction. If you just stick your nose in on Slaton, White's going to be out the back door and you've got problems.

"They've got Owen, too, who can run the ball right down your throat," he continued. "They have speed and power. They're throwing the ball better this year, which gives them the total package."

Having seen the Mountaineers so many times over the years, one might think Friedgen would have the perfect gameplan to stop White, Slaton, and company. While he may have a great gameplan, the Fridge knows that stopping West Virginia's All-Big East backfield is a tough task for every opponent, including the Terps. In practice this week, the Friedgen has been using speedy quarterback Josh Portis – ineligible to participate in games – to simulate the speed of White as best as he can.

"The toughest thing is to simulate the speed with which they run their offense and the speed in which they have," Friedgen admits. "We've had Josh Portis playing quarterback all week portraying White. It's very tough to do because they have very fine athletes and they are very fine at what they do."

When the final horn sounds at the conclusion of Thursday's game, a two-year hiatus for this longtime series will commence. Maryland asked for the brief vacation after coming to terms on a home-and-home series with California. The Mountaineers have penciled in Colorado to take the Terrapins' place on the docket for the next two seasons. Though it his school that asked for the break, Friedgen has been very vocal in his support for the continuation of the game for many years to come.

"I think it's a great series," said the former National Coach of the Year. "It has been for quite some time. It's virtually even after 40 years of playing (West Virginia holds a slim 22-21-2 margin). I'm in favor of renewing the series afterwards. As far as Maryland's concerned, it's a rivalry game because it's a border state just like Virginia and Virginia Tech. I think the fans like the game. It's always an exciting game and a very well attended game. I think it's great for both programs."

During the call, Friedgen was asked to describe his relationship with Rodriguez.

"I don't really know Rich that much," he said. "We played in the Gator Bowl (in January of 2004) and got to know each other better. We have mutual respect. He's done a great job there and really built the program up. "We talk," he continued. "It's not like we're not friends or anything. If I see him at a convention or something like that, we always sit down and talk. I wouldn't say we have a good relationship. We're not real close."

Whatever they are, both Rodriguez and Friedgen have the same goal on Thursday night: win the game. As this series has proven year after year, that task is much easier said than done.


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