COLLEGE PARK -- Senior cornerback Renard Cox said the 3-0 Maryland football team is "getting a little love" these days from the students on campus in response to a 33-0 romp over rival West Virginia 12 days ago.
"We're helping them out by winning," said Cox, who has played a major role in the early success with 18 tackles, three passes broken up and one interception.
However, the Terps aren't receiving a whole lot of love from the collegiate football experts around the nation.
Maryland is a 20-point underdog to No. 9 Georgia Tech (2-1) in tonight's game in Atlanta on ESPN, and the consensus seems to be that the bubble will burst in a big way for coach Ron Vanderlinden's team in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
"Obviously, we're not getting any more respect," senior defensive end Peter Timmins said. "I read an article in USA Today [by a Web site columnist], and the headline said, 'Auburn, Illinois and Maryland set for fall.' They said, 'Not to break your hearts, Maryland, but you aren't going to a bowl.' "
Those remarks have left Timmins steaming for a meeting with Heisman Trophy candidate Joe Hamilton and the high-powered Georgia Tech offense.
"I don't like seeing a bad publication like that," Timmins said. "I don't care if it's only on a Web site. Especially when you feel and know inside you're a better team than that."
It will be up to Timmins and the Maryland defensive line to chase down the elusive Hamilton wherever he decides to roam from his quarterback position.
"Joe Hamilton's a magician," Timmins said. "If you stop him, you stop their offense. They also have Dez White, who is a great receiver. We just have to go in there, execute, get some turnovers, don't give up big plays, and we'll see you on that bus at 11: 30 to the airport."
Timmins, 6 feet 3, 257 pounds, is also charged up over playing in a nationally televised game.
"It's the only game on that night," he said. "Everybody wants to watch Georgia Tech, the No. 9 team in the nation. Can you make a statement or what, if you go down there and beat the No. 9 team and you come out of there 4-0? Anything can happen from that point on."
Timmins said a 12-day rest after the West Virginia win was perfect.
"It's now or never," he said. "We're mentally and physically prepared. The bruises are gone, and we had three more days' rest than usual."
Timmins gave Maryland what was thought to be a big emotional lift in the opening minutes last year against Georgia Tech, picking off a Hamilton lateral and returning it 32 yards for a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. But White returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to tie the game, and the Yellow Jackets went on to win, 31-14.
Hamilton played with a hip pointer in that game and completed just 11 of 26 passes for 118 yards and one touchdown.
Hamilton said this week he isn't out to prove anything special against Maryland because of last season's subpar game.
"The fact we were able to come out of that game with a victory made up for anything that happened to me," he said. "Maryland will not be a cakewalk for us this year. I realized in the summer that we could not look over them. LaMont Jordan is a big back, they have some big linebackers that can run, and their secondary is much better. It's going to take everybody doing their job for us."
Hamilton has completed 77 percent of his passes in three games this season and leads the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 211.3. He is 46 of 60 for 687 yards and seven touchdowns and has rushed for 157 yards and four touchdowns on 41 carries.
His career stats include 472 completions in 775 attempts for 6,509 yards, 43 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. His career rushing totals stand at 388 carries for 1,181 yards and 18 touchdowns.
After Hamilton dazzled Florida State with 22 completions in 25 attempts for 387 yards and four touchdowns in Tech's 41-35 loss, Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said, "It's been a long time since our defense looked that helpless."
Hamilton and the Yellow Jackets have averaged 36.2 points over the past 19 games, a feat that Vanderlinden calls "remarkable."
The coach said: "What makes Tech so interesting is they spread you out with no backs in the backfield and throw the ball effectively and get it downfield. They just do a lot of things in the passing game but also line up in the wishbone and run the triple option at you. Hamilton is the reason it works. He is a phenomenal talent."
And Vanderlinden said there is a lot more about the Yellow Jackets' offense to cause concern: "They do everything in between the no-backs and wishbone. They use two backs and power football. They are as diversified as any offense in the country. In fact nobody can do it like they do."
Georgia Tech has averaged 41.7 points through three games this season, placing the Jackets fifth in the nation in scoring offense, while Maryland is first in the country in scoring defense. The Terps have two shutouts and have allowed 3.3 points a game.
"Maryland is playing with so much confidence," said Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary. "The key is their improved running game with No. 15 [Jordan] and No. 7 [Bruce Perry] alternating. I think Jordan's having a great year. He sees daylight and hits the holes, putting stress on the tackling."
O'Leary also said Maryland is "doing the right thing" with redshirt freshman quarterback Calvin McCall.
"They're not putting him in a position where he has to read the whole field," O'Leary said. "He only reads half the field. They're not forcing him to do too much, and they're utilizing his ability to the fullest. He has the arm to put pressure on a defense."
Maryland (3-0) at No. 9 Georgia Tech (2-1)
Site: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta
TV/Radio: ESPN/WNST (1570 AM), WTTR (1470 AM), WBAL (1090 AM, tape delay after Orioles-Yankees game)
Outlook: Maryland's first-year offensive coordinator, Bob Heffner, faces the ultimate test tonight. He will try to figure out a way to outscore one of the most imaginative offenses in the country, led by quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Joe Hamilton. Heffner is matching wits with Tech's outstanding offensive coordinator, Ralph Friedgen, who was once the offensive coordinator for Bobby Ross and the San Diego Chargers in 1994 when they reached the Super Bowl. Friedgen, who played at Maryland, was also the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Ross and the Terps from 1982 to 1986. Tonight's matchup is the third Thursday night meeting on ESPN in the past five years between the two schools. The first was 1995 in Atlanta when the 4-0 Terps, ranked No. 17 at the time, were blitzed, 31-3, by the Yellow Jackets. The Terps and Jackets met again in 1996 on the ESPN Thursday night game, and Maryland captured a 13-10 victory.
Opponent: No. 9 Georgia Tech
Site: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta
TV/Radio: ESPN/WNST (1570 AM)
Series: Tech leads 8-3
Line: Tech by 20 Pub Date: 9/30/99