COLLEGE PARK, Md. – On a day in which 22 seniors play their final home game at Maryland, many of the players hope to embrace the coach who helped bring them to the school.
It might be a little awkward, because Ralph Friedgen will be doing his best to send the Terrapins out with a loss.
Friedgen was fired by Maryland in 2010 after a 10-year run. He latched on with Rutgers as its offensive coordinator, and on Saturday he will direct the Scarlet Knights' attack in the regular season finale for both Big Ten newcomers.
Although Friedgen has refused to publicly express his feelings about the return, this won't be a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
"I think Ralph's excited for every game," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. "You know, Ralph pours everything he has into every game plan. The players feel that. I don't think that'll be any different this week."
Friedgen's former players at Maryland can't wait to shake his hand and perhaps wrap their arms around his portly torso.
"It will be great to see him," Terrapins senior quarterback C.J. Brown said. "He's a reason why I got this opportunity in the first place."
Friedgen went out a winner, directing Maryland to a victory in the Military Bowl even after the school announced it would not renew his contract.
Some of the players he recruited left after Randy Edsall took over as head coach. Those who stuck it out endured a 2-10 season in Edsall's debut, but the Terrapins (7-4, 4-3) eventually turned things around and will be making a second straight bowl appearance this season.
The seniors won't soon forget the man who recruited them.
"I liked him. He persuaded me to come here," linebacker L.A. Goree said of Friedgen.
Some things to know about the Maryland-Rutgers matchup:
WINNING RECORD: Rutgers (6-5, 2-5) is already bowl eligible, but the Scarlet Knights have no desire to finish the regular season at .500. "It's definitely a big confidence booster ending the season," safety Lorenzo Waters said. "Especially because this could be our first Big Ten road victory." Quarterback Gary Nova said, "Just to end the season on the win would be a good feeling and it would look better on paper."
RIVARLY BREWING: Many of the other teams in the Big Ten have established long-lasting rivalries. Maybe the same thing happen with Maryland and Rutgers, with the winner receiving a trophy. "I think that's cool stuff," Scarlet Knights linebacker Kevin Snyder said. "That's another thing that boosts rivalries. You say you have the trophy for so many years or whatever, so I hope it gets to that point." Said Waters: "We're the two newcomers to the Big Ten and they're local, they're close. This could be for bragging rights for recruiting for years after this."
THANKS, SENIORS: Edsall might have difficulty keeping his emotions in check when his upperclassmen are honored before the game. "The seniors mean a lot to me," he said. "They came in, persevered, understood what we were doing and were able to reap the benefits. They're great kids. They work hard and it's paid off for them. These are the guys that really kind of laid the groundwork and built the foundation for what the program is all about, what the program stands for. I'm always going to be indebted to them."
BROWN DELIVERS: Brown is Maryland's leading rusher with 462 yards. No one else on the team has 300, which is quite unusual in the run-oriented Big Ten. "They actually run the quarterback a little bit more," Flood said. "You know, when you look at C.J.'s statistics, he doesn't look like he's averaging a lot of yards per carry, but if you take out the sacks he's probably averaging over five yards." Take away the 220 yards in losses, and Brown is averaging 5.05 yards per carry on his 135 attempts.
BEST FOR LAST: Maryland has outscored its opponents this season by 25 points in the fourth quarter (103-78), the highest differential of any quarter this season. The Terps topped Michigan 14-0 in the fourth last Saturday in a 23-16 win. Rutgers, on the other hand, has been outscored 74-59 over the final 15 minutes.