Oct. 9, 2001
ATLANTA – Two longtime friends will reunite on Thursday night as George O’Leary’s 15th-ranked Georgia Tech team will face Ralph Friedgen’s 20th-ranked and undefeated Maryland Terrapins at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.
Friedgen, in his first year as Maryland’s head coach, spent eight years as Georgia Tech’s offensive coordinator from 1987-91 and 1997-2000 while the two men’s friendship dates back nearly 20 years.
Thursday’s game, which will kick off at 7:35 p.m., will be nationally televised by ESPN and can be heard on the Georgia Tech/ISP radio network (flagship WQXI 790 AM in Atlanta).
Tech enters the game with a 4-1 overall record, including a 1-1 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference play after picking up a 37-10 win at Duke last weekend. Maryland has opened the season with five straight wins, including a 41-21 win over Virginia last weekend in College Park. The Terps stand atop the ACC standings with a perfect 3-0 record.
“We’re two New Yorkers, that describes us,” said O’Leary when asked about his relationship with Friedgen.
O’Leary and Friedgen first met when they both recruited New York while assistant coaches at Syracuse and Maryland, respectively, in the early 1980’s.
“What’s funny is we both knew Long Island and New York fairly well so we sent a lot of other recruiters different ways and hit traffic,” said O’Leary. “We’d be hitting six schools and they’d be hitting two. We would stay at the same hotels and because I had the bigger budget, I would take him to dinner.”
The pair has been friends ever since, working together at Georgia Tech and with the San Diego Chargers in the NFL. O’Leary and Friedgen still get together frequently for a round of golf, and they both own houses in the same cove on Lake Oconee. This week, for the first time, the two longtime friends will face each other on opposite sidelines.
“I don’t enjoy playing friends. I never have,” said O’Leary. “You’re both great competitors and there’s one feeling great happiness after the game and one feeling great sadness. It’s two extremes. But we’ll have a lot of laughs over it in the off-season. Kids play the game coaches just get them in position to win the game and make plays.
“It’s Maryland-Georgia Tech, and you hope as a coach you get your kids in position to win a game. I think the key is that you don’t want to get into the coaches as much as you do Maryland-Georgia Tech. Good players win games and coaches help good players win games.”
The Terrapins roll into Atlanta with their best start since 1978. Maryland is led by sophomore tailback Bruce Perry, who leads the nation averaging 164.2 yards per game. Senior quarterback Shaun Hill has been efficient in the passing game, averaging 184.8 yards in the air while tossing six touchdown passes.
“Against Maryland you’ve got to defend the whole field,” said O’Leary. “You can’t be defending the tight end or the split side because I think Ralph’s system of offense will take them to where the weakness is. You’ve just got to play what you do well and hopefully you can play fast and make some plays. They’ve done a very good job of running the ball as well as the play action game and the drop back game. We’ve got to be very sharp on defense.”
Not surprisingly, O’Leary notes the similarities between Georgia Tech and Maryland in the system and schemes that they both run.
“When you look at tape, even defensively, we seem to be looking at ourselves a lot,” said O’Leary. “Offensively, it’s a lot of fun because we can work against each other in practice. I think they’re running the ball with some confidence. Bruce Perry is a good runner who makes the first guy miss and gets north and south. They have a strong running game and a good play action game.”
Maryland leads the ACC and ranks 11th in the nation in rushing offense (232.4 yards per game) while ranking 18th nationally in scoring offense at 34.6 points per game. Defensively, the Terrapins lead the ACC and rank 10th in the country allowing just 14.2 points per game.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech continues to lead the league in scoring offense (39.8 points per game) and total offense (460.0 yards per game) while ranking ninth nationally in both departments. Quarterback George Godsey continues to rank among the top 10 players in the Division 1-A in passing efficiency (162.8), passing for a league-high 1,115 yards while completing nearly 67% of his passes. Junior tailback Joe Burns (91.6 yards per game) paces the Tech ground attack with a league-best eight TD runs. Senior Kelly Campbell, who needs just two receptions to break Tech’s career record, is the Yellow Jackets’ top receiver with 25 catches for 371 yards.