Terps coach Michael Locksley understands the Maryland-Virginia rivalry.
He first saw it as a fan, sitting in the parking lots outside the Terps’ stadium. He’s seen it as an assistant coach — vividly recalling the 1999 edition when Maryland got over 300 yards from LaMont Jordan but lost on a late Billy McMullen touchdown to the left corner of the end zone.
When Ralph Friedgen took over, Locksley saw firsthand the hatred the former Maryland lineman had for the Cavaliers.
“I haven’t talked to him this week yet, but I’m sure that he still gets pretty pumped up about it,” Locksley said Tuesday.
Friedgen sure does.
“They don’t like us, and we don’t like them,” he told The Banner. “You know, they always think that they’re much better than us academically and everything else. You know, they look at us as lowlifes.”
Those decidedly un-fuzzy feelings aren’t necessarily still there for the current group of Maryland players — quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa gave a sheepish smile and said he didn’t know anything when asked about the rivalry. But Friday night’s matchup, the first between the schools in a decade (Maryland moved from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten in 2014), still brings up memories for former Terps.
The 2002 game, Friedgen’s first road test against Virginia, left Maryland disgruntled. The 35-point loss kept the Terps one game behind Florida State for the ACC crown and tied with the Cavaliers for second.
Friedgen said his teams never played well in Charlottesville and hypothesized it may have been due to the DoubleTree where the Terps stayed. It served chocolate chip cookies for guests to take to their rooms.
“I always thought there was something in those chocolate chip cookies that mellowed us out,” he said.
Virginia came up to College Park the next year for a Thursday night kick with frigid weather and swirling winds.
Through the elements, Friedgen sat in his office pregame — laughing.
His counterpart at Virginia, Al Groh, was ambling around looking for Friedgen to do the customary pregame handshake. Friedgen was in a much more comfortable situation. To him, this was payback for a year earlier when Groh snubbed him.
“That kind of pissed me off,” Friedgen said.
His hostility carried over to his players.
“We had a lot of pent-up emotions that we wanted to let loose on the field during that day,” former receiver and current Maryland radio analyst Steve Suter said.
Friedgen had asked Jess Atkinson, a former Maryland kicker turned sportscaster, to make a motivational video for the team. When Atkinson showed the coach a cut-up of moments from Maryland’s season to date set to the “Gladiator” movie theme music, Friedgen got tears in his eyes.
“He came up with the most unbelievable film I’ve ever seen,” the coach said. “... I got emotional just watching it.”
When Friedgen showed it to his players in the lead-up to the game, the room went silent and he worried he’d misjudged the impact it would have.
He was wrong — the video might have worked too well in amping up Maryland’s players. As they walked down Terp Alley, multiple players came up to Friedgen and asked to see the tape again — so he hooked it up in the locker room pregame.
“They were so fired up. It was unbelievable,” Friedgen said. “I don’t think, in 43 years of coaching, I’ve never been involved with kids that ready to play a game.”
The Terps asked their coach if they could “challenge” the Cavaliers after the coin toss. Friedgen said no; he didn’t want to risk a penalty.
“So, of course, they went ahead and did it anyway,” he said.
Maryland’s entire roster came out to the midfield script logo and started jumping up and down in a show of intimidation.
Referees called the Terps for unsportsmanlike conduct, pushing Virginia’s opening kickoff to the 50-yard line. It didn’t matter — Scott McBrien found Latrez Harrison for a touchdown to cap the opening drive and Josh Allen ran for 257 yards and two scores as Maryland won 27-17.
“I think we ended up getting the edge of emotion out of it so it was a good move on our team’s part,” Suter said. “I do love to see how the penalty flag drops down and a lot of guys that are around it start running away because they don’t want to be the one … getting in trouble.”
He clarified that any ill will he had for Virginia wasn’t because of the players; it was because of fans he called “pompous and annoying.”
“I would hate to just say, ‘You know what they do,’ but you know what they do,” he said. “... It’s just how they carry themselves, how they walk around, better-than-thou-type attitude. You’re not as smart as you think you are.”
Friedgen won four of his first six matchups against the Cavaliers but lost the next three. In 2010, his final year as Maryland’s head coach, his team traveled to Charlottesville. The Terps had lost three of the four road games they’d played against Virginia during his tenure and the coach made a change: no more DoubleTree.
Maryland stayed in Richmond, despite protests about the hourlong ride. Virginia took a three-point lead before the Terps scored 21 straight fourth-quarter points in a 42-23 win.
“Maybe it was something to those chocolate chip cookies,” Friedgen said.