Oct. 14, 2002
After a week off, Georgia Tech (4-2, 1-2 ACC) takes on conference rival Maryland (4-2, 0-1 ACC) Thursday at 7:45 p.m. at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md. The nationally-televised meeting marks the fifth time since 1995 that the Jackets and Terrapins will face off on ESPN’s popular Thursday night telecast.
This match-up also marks the second meeting between former Tech offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ralph Friedgen and his former employer. Friedgen served in that capacity from 1987-91 and 1997-2000. The Terrapins took the first meeting a year ago, taking a 20-17 overtime decision in Atlanta. Tech leads the all-time series 10-4 and has won four of the last five meetings.
The game with Maryland also marks the third and final time this season that Tech faces a team coached by a former Rambling Wreck assistant. The Jackets have defeated former defensive coordinator Randy Edsall of Connecticut and former offensive coordinator Gary Crowton of Brigham Young.
“I think that the fact that he was here helps us, but it helps them too,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey. “They know some of our things offensively as well. They played each other last year with basically the same offenses on both sides. We’ve probably made a few more changes than they have offensively. We’re also different defensively, whereas they are the same defensively, so the carryover from last year’s game for us is a little bit better in that respect.”
Last time out, the Jackets dropped a 24-21 decision at Wake Forest. Maryland is coming off a 48-17 victory at West Virginia, the Terps third-consecutive non-conference win.
Offensively, the Terps have come alive of late, scoring at least 37 points in each of their last three outings, all victories. A big part has been the play at running back of freshman Josh Allen and senior Chris Downs. Downs leads the team with 408 yards and six scores, while Allen has added 266 yards and five touchdowns. Both backs are capable of having a big outing, as Allen is coming off a 116-yard performance against the Mountaineers, while Downs posted 147 yards versus Wofford on September 28.
According to Gailey, the play of quarterback Scott McBrien has also figured into the Terps success.
“He has become more mature and he’s become better each week and gotten more productive,” said Gailey. “They are throwing more things at him and their offense is broadening and expanding, so you take all of that into account and that’s what has happened.”
Maryland’s defense has also been solid, allowing just 26 points in the last three games. The unit is allowing 16.8 points per game, a mark which ranks second in the ACC and 19th nationally. The Jackets lead the conference and rank 16th nationally, allowing just 16.2 points per game. Maryland has been especially tough against the run, holding West Virginia 159 yards below its national-best average of 345.5 yards per game. A big part of this strong play has been the Terps’ front seven, including all-America linebacker E.J. Henderson.
“They try to move those guys around and line up in some different fronts and bring them from different spots,” said Gailey. “If you can get a hat on a hat, it’s just like running against anybody else, with a few exceptions. E.J. Henderson is one of those, because he can defeat a blocker and make the tackle.”
Henderson leads the squad with 73 combined tackles, including 5.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. He holds the Maryland record for career tackles for loss and currently ranks second in the ACC in sacks.
Anchoring the Yellow Jacket defense is an experienced secondary and linebacking corps. Junior Keyaron Fox leads the team with 49 tackles. Fellow linebackers Daryl Smith and Recardo Wimbush rank second and third on the team with 45 and 38 tackles, respectively.
Offensively, the Jackets turn to the ACC’s top receiver, senior Kerry Watkins, who leads the conference with 5.0 receptions per game and 88.0 yards per game. He has 30 catches for 528 yards and three touchdowns. He now has 130 catches for 2,158 yards and 20 scores for his career.