COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Nothing that Maryland has done thus far under first-year coach Randy Edsall compares to the challenge the Terrapins face this Saturday against No. 13 Georgia Tech.
Maryland has already defeated an Atlantic Coast Conference foe (Miami) and played against a ranked opponent (West Virginia).
Georgia Tech, however, owns the nation’s most prolific rushing offense, ranks second in scoring (51.6 points per game) and is already one victory away from becoming bowl eligible.
Not only that, but it’s the Terrapins’ first road trip under Edsall following a season-opening run of four successive games at home.
“That’s another thing we’re going to have to contend with,” Edsall said Tuesday. “I try to tell the kids to just focus on what
happens between the lines.”
Getting away from Byrd Stadium might be a good thing for the Terrapins (2-2, 1-0), who heard jeers from the home crowd the past two weeks during a 38-7 loss to Temple and a lackluster 28-3 win over Towson.
“It’s just a big opportunity for us,” quarterback Danny O’Brien said. “We’ve got a lot to prove. The guys have had enough
of losing and people counting us out already. We believe, and we’re kind of fired up.”
Maryland hasn’t played an ACC game since defeating Miami 32-24 on Labor Day. One of only five unbeaten teams in conference play, the Terrapins can make a major statement by pulling off an upset.
“It’s a big chance for us, it being a conference game,” O’Brien said. “To be 2-0 would be unbelievable for us right now.”
Maryland hasn’t played Georgia Tech (5-0, 2-0) since 2007 and thus has not gone up against the triple-option attack of coach Paul Johnson. Not only do the Yellow Jackets average 378.2 yards on the ground, but their 35 pass completions have produced 10 touchdowns and 1,044 yards.
“We’re going to have to control the ball, because with that offense you don’t know when you’re going to get it back,” O’Brien said. “So we’re going to have be really great on third down, stay on the field and keep our defense off it.”
To prepare the Maryland offense for the crowd noise it will encounter at the line of scrimmage, Edsall intends to turn up the volume on loudspeakers at practice this week. But when a football team is on the road, the best way to cope with the sound of the crowd is to do something to silent the fans.
“You make a play and you’re hated,” defensive tackle Joe Vellano said. “It’s the guys on the sideline versus the whole
crowd kind of mentality.”
Taking an early lead would help.
“The best thing you can try to do is get off to a good start and try to take the crowd out of the game,” Edsall said. “It’s us
against 55,000 people. You like that. It get your competitive juices going.”
For the veterans on the team, playing on the road is nothing new. For the freshmen, it’s going to be an eye-opening experience.
“We’re going to draw on the success from different games we’ve had in this season and go down there and stay focused,” senior guard Andrew Gonnella said. “It’s going be a true test of how we respond under pressure. This is a pressure game. They’re a ranked opponent and they have a great venue to play in. But we’re excited.”
The Yellow Jackets have no given up fewer than 21 points in any game. But they haven’t been held under 35 and have topped the 60-point mark twice. The real pressure for Maryland is on the defense, which ranks last in the ACC and is second-to-last in the conference against the run.
“I think the biggest thing on the option is if you get caught, is just stay alive and get in on the play. They’re going to make
plays on you, and when they do you’re going to come back and they’re going to run the same thing. There really isn’t too much trickery, it’s just assignment football.”
“The thing you have to do against the triple-option is you have to have everyone play assignment football,” Edsall said. “You have to take away the dive and be prepared for the quarterback to keep it or pitch it.”
That philosophy worked for Maryland last year in a win over Navy, which specializes in the triple-option attack that Johnson installed before leaving for Georgia Tech. But unlike the Midshipmen, the Yellow Jackets are also efficient through the air.
“When they throw,” Vellano said, “they score.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)