Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Old friends' coaching battle purely 1-sided

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- We return you now to the mid-1970s.

Frank Beamer and his wife, Cheryl, are expecting their first child. Ralph Friedgen and his wife, Gloria, are also expecting.

The couples -- close friends for years -- are taking a Lamaze class together.

Instructor: "Breathe, ladies. That's it! In. Out. Very good. Keep it up."

Frank: "What would you like us husbands to do, ma'am?"

Instructor: "You guys breathe, too. Your wives can get in rhythm with you."

Frank: "OK. Whhhhhooooo-heeeeeee. Whhhhhooooo-heeeeeee. This all right?"

Instructor: "Excellent, Frank! Ralph? I don't hear you breathing."

Ralph: [gurgling] "I ... can't! Frank's ... standing ... on ... my ... throat!"

Some pal Beamer is. Here's Friedgen, the Maryland coach mired in the most difficult season of his career, and what does his old buddy do?

He makes it worse.

On Saturday, Beamer brought more than 10,000 Virginia Tech fans into Byrd Stadium, and together they danced a jig on what's left of Friedgen's reputation. The Hokies torched the Terps 36-9 -- a game that was over at halftime -- to drop Maryland's record to 2-8.

Very little went wrong for Tech. Tyrod Taylor threw for a career-high three touchdowns. Ryan Williams posted another 100-yard rushing day. The Hokies piled up 484 yards of offense. The Tech defense dominated, continuing an upward trend for that unit.

Then Kam Chancellor and John Graves scooped some turf from the 25-yard line, dumped it into the lunch pail and headed for the exits.

The weight of it all left Friedgen squirming on a sizzling seat, trying to explain what's gone wrong in College Park.

"I'm seeing plays I haven't seen in my whole coaching career, ..." Friedgen lamented.

Now we know the real reason defensive coordinator Bud Foster hasn't left for a head-coaching job through all these years: He's got to be petrified of ever seeing Beamer on the opposing sideline. Evidently, the closer you are to the guy, the more forceful the haymaker he throws in your direction.

Beamer is now 4-0 against Friedgen, and the games have not been close. The Hokies have outscored the Terps 142-37 since joining the ACC. That's Little Mac vs. Glass Joe stuff there.

Of course, that's what Beamer wants and needs for his program. But the victory has to be bittersweet for him.

As most people know, he's as tight with Friedgen as two coaches could be. They share summers together at neighboring lake homes in Georgia. The Lamaze-class story is true, even if that dialogue wasn't; they attended those together when Cheryl was pregnant with Shane and Gloria was expecting daughter Kelley.

Given that -- not to mention the proximity of the schools and abundance of Hokies in the D.C. area -- the Tech-Maryland series has potential to be a good rivalry. But as Dan Patrick noted on his radio show this week, there's no such thing as a rivalry when one side is always the dog and the other is always the fire hydrant.

Beamer and Friedgen don't talk much during the season, but the Tech coach did offer some encouragement to his friend after the game.

"I told him I'm thinking about him and [to] hang tough," Beamer said.

"I know he will. He's a good, good coach. He's a super-good person. He runs a good program, does it the right way. There's a lot of good in Ralph Friedgen.

"He's had a tough year. He's had some tough injuries that's hurt him. Sometimes it just goes that way."

Friedgen has indeed endured some tough injuries. But not since the opener against California had his team been out of a game so early. The Hokies rolled to a 27-3 lead by the 8:06 mark of the second quarter, dominance reminiscent of that Thursday-night, 55-6 drubbing in 2004.

That was the first matchup between Beamer and Friedgen as head coaches.

Both men -- Beamer included -- probably wish it had been the last.

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