PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Almost four years after being abruptly fired by Maryland, Rutgers offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen is getting a chance to coach against his former team.
And while he's keeping a low profile before Rutgers' regular season finale against the Terps, players understand his history with their opponent this week.
"We're well aware," wide receiver Leonte Carroo said. "We know he'd been there for a while and that was his place — his home. He's not going to have to tell us what this game means to him. I'm pretty sure he wants to win this really, really bad and we're going to go out there and play hard for him."
Friedgen, who went 75-50 in 10 seasons coaching Maryland, hasn't spoken with reporters as his team prepares for the game on Saturday. Rutgers doesn't allow assistant coaches to speak with media during the season.
"Ralph's excited for every game," said Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, who lured Friedgen out of a three-year coaching break with a two-year, $1 million contract. "You know, Ralph pours everything he has into every game plan ... I don't think that'll be any different this week."
Friedgen, 67, played for Maryland in the 1960s. He was named the head coach in November 2000 and quickly turned the program around, leading it to seven bowl games and a school-record five bowl wins. Before he was hired, Maryland had been to one bowl game in 15 years.
Friedgen was fired after the 2010 season despite leading Maryland to a 9-4 record and being named the ACC coach of the year. The team was 2-10 in 2009.
When asked about going against Maryland before the season, Friedgen said little.
"That's the last game of the year," he said. "Ask me that question that week because I'm worried about Washington State right now."
His players have noticed some changes in him this week. Watching film of Maryland, quarterback Gary Nova pointed out that Friedgen wasn't referring to its players by their numbers. Instead, it was by name.
"You could tell he knows those guys and recruited them and stuff like that," Nova said. "So I know he's very excited for this game."
While Nova and others say they'd like to get the win for Friedgen, they say that's not their primary motivation.
"This is a must win for the program right now," Carroo said. "Whether it's for coach Friedgen or for (senior linebacker) Kevin Snyder, we're going to go out there and play really hard."
While it is bowl eligible, Rutgers (6-5, 2-5) would like a seventh win to more securely position itself for a bowl berth.
A Big Ten newcomer like Rutgers, Maryland (7-4, 4-3) is in better shape for a postseason bowl.