COLLEGE PARK — Maryland's bid to secure bowl eligibility with a victory Saturday will come against a school with which coach Randy Edsall could hardly have more history.
Edsall, 55, attended Syracuse, where he was a backup quarterback and met his wife-to-be. After graduating, he remained at the university as an assistant coach for 11 years.
"I have very fond memories," Edsall said this week as the Terps (5-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) prepared for the Orange (4-4, 2-2 ACC). "I spent 15 years of my life playing and then coaching. I met my wife there, and she got the better end of that deal. It's … a special place for me."
He dated the former Eileen Smith when she was a senior and he was a graduate assistant. She was a volleyball and basketball standout.
She said last year that she was reluctant to date a fellow athlete. "It's kind of hard," she told The Baltimore Sun. "You've got classes, you've got practices, you've got games. And I was doing two sports, so I was busy all year round. But once he graduated and was a GA, I felt, 'Well, he's not an athlete.' "
They have been married for 30 years, through six football-related stops.
Saturday will be the first and last time the Terps will meet the Orange in ACC play. Syracuse is new to the conference this season, and Maryland departs for the Big Ten in 2014. However, the teams will meet in nonconference play next season.
The game marks the second time since arriving at Maryland that Edsall will face a program with which he has deep roots. Earlier this season, Maryland defeated Connecticut, the school that gave him his first head coaching job 15 years ago.
Edsall became emotional after the Terps played the Huskies in 2012. After the game ended, the coach's eyes filled with tears as he recounted seeing players from two teams representing different chapters in his life.
He said he's played enough games against Syracuse in his coaching career not to have such a visceral reaction Saturday, when Maryland will try for the third time to record its sixth win and become bowl eligible. As Connecticut's coach, Edsall was 5-2 against the Orange.
Edsall has kept up his association with Syracuse. Last weekend, during Maryland's bye week, Edsall traveled to Syracuse with his wife, who was honored by the school for her athletic accomplishments.
The coach visited with old teammates, including former Syracuse and NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Art Monk and former NFL linebacker Craig Bingham.
But he wasn't permitted under NCAA rules to watch Syracuse's game against Wake Forest. The rules are designed to prevent coaches from picking up signals or other intelligence about the opposing team.
Edsall, who said he was treated well by Syracuse, had gained permission to attend his wife's pregame ceremony. But then, in his words, he was "escorted" out of the Carrier Dome.
"All of the friends that I have from there are special," Edsall said. "You just worry about what you've got to control in terms of getting ready to play [Saturday's] game."
Maryland (5-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) vs. Syracuse (4-4, 2-2 ACC)
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Site: Byrd Stadium
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM
Series: Syracuse leads 18-14-2
Last meeting: Syracuse def. Maryland, 21-16, in Syracuse on Nov. 19, 1994
Maryland offense vs. Syracuse defense: The Terps are coming off their second bye week. Maryland's offense is hardly full strength — top wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are out for the season with lower-leg fractures — but the Terps will have back starting quarterback C.J. Brown back and running back Brandon Ross. Tight end Dave Stinebaugh (knee) is probable. The Orange defense has two shutouts this season and ranks second in the conference in tackles for losses (7.9 per game). "They have an aggressive, attacking and blitzing defense," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said.
Maryland defense vs. Syracuse offense: Syracuse averages 197.8 rushing yards per game and is close to its best mark since 2000 (207.2 yards). Senior running back Prince-Tyson Gulley averages 80.2 all-purpose yards per game and junior running back Jerome Smith is fifth in ACC with nine touchdowns. Maryland starting linebacker Cole Farrand (concussion) is out. Linebacker L.A. Goree (back) is questionable. The Terps forced three turnovers in their last game, a loss to Clemson, after not having any takeaways in their previous three gamesCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun