Ralph: I'd Rather Play Somebody Pretty Good
Here are quotes you won’t find in Maryland’s pre-game notes for Saturday’s clash with Middle Tennessee State. Ralph Friedgen said he would “rather play somebody pretty good, myself.” It was a moment of on-the-record candor from a college football coach, even though Friedgen understandably tiptoed from the comment seconds later. Friedgen is colorful, open and at times emotional. It is what makes him a pleasure from a reporting standpoint. It is also what makes him differ from, well, Al Groh.
(I toned this entry down some when I got home late Thursday; enough drama for one week)
Coaches say this kind of stuff occasionally off the record. They say it sometimes when there is confusion as to whether the conversation is on or off the record. They rarely say it two days before the game when there are six tape recorders neatly spread out before them in their office. I don’t want to be accused of taking this out of context, so here is the whole thing. Everyone can decide whether this was wise to say 14 hours before Maryland’s plane departs for Nashville, or whether it doesn't mean squat because the Terps will roll over MTSU.
Here was the completely benign question: Is this the kind of non-conference schedule you look for? What do you want out of your non-conference schedule? Do you want challenging teams? Do you want balance? Do you want teams that appeal to the fans?
Friedgen chuckled and then said: “You are never going to please the fans. They are the least of my consideration. Obviously I want ‘Ws’. This is a game that I worry about quite a bit. It is going to be a different environment. The kids are going to go in there. It’s just hard, even though you talk about it every day, maybe you talk about it too much, I don’t know. I hope we’re ready to play when we go up there. They will be fired up. They will be like this is their Rose Bowl. In fact, when we watched them on tape last year, when they played Louisville, they played Virginia, they played better against those teams, than the teams in their own conference.
“We have been to Northern Illinois. We have been to Eastern Michigan; had to pull that one out. Last year, we scored 14 points at FIU and went to sleep the rest of the game. Personally, I would rather play somebody pretty good, myself. Not that they are not good. I would like to play a bigger team, I guess, I don’t know. It is what it is, so. To me, if you have the right mentality, and we want to achieve the type of success we want, we have to go out and play, regardless of who we are playing, we have to take the same approach. I hope this team is going to be a good team; they should be. But again, a lot of this is mental attitude, you can’t mail it in. You have to go out and earn it.”
Question: Is it hard going into a new place, rather than an ACC school?
Friedgen: “I think this place will have a pretty good crowd. It won’t be big, but it will be loud. You have that situation, kind of like how it was at Northern Illinois. All of the sudden, momentum goes the other way and, boy. Last year, playing FIU and there were maybe five people in the stands. The same with Eastern Michigan. And those people are playing like it’s the Super Bowl and we went out there daydreaming. These are very difficult situations. I have a lot of respect for their coaches. And I think they have some really good athletes. We have to be ready to play or we will be in trouble.”
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