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'The Fridge' set to make return to Byrd Stadium

Former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was let go after the 2010 season. He's now Rutgers' offensive coordinator.
Former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was let go after the 2010 season. He's now Rutgers' offensive coordinator. (Gene Sweeney Jr. / The Baltimore Sun)

Ralph Friedgen's talking has been done in private.

The former Maryland coach and current Rutgers offensive coordinator was not made available to the media this week, per Rutgers' in-season policy restricting access to assistant coaches.

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Scarlet Knights players say Friedgen has not shared any feelings with them about facing his former team and alma mater.

But his players recognize the significance of Saturday's game between Maryland and Rutgers for the now 67-year old Friedgen, who will coach at Byrd Stadium for the first time since he was fired following the 2010 season.

Friedgen coached Maryland for 10 seasons prior to his dismissal, leading the Terps to a 75-50 record and five bowl victories.

Friedgen was out of coaching for three seasons before being hired by Rutgers this year.

"We know he [was] there for awhile," Rutgers wide receiver Leonte Carroo told reporters in New Jersey. "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 bad. We're going to go out there and play hard for him."

While Friedgen has declined to speak publicly about Maryland since being hired by Rutgers, his bitterness toward the Terps was clear during a radio interview in 2011 with WNST-AM.

Asked whether he was watching Maryland's games, Friedgen responded, "I could care less about Maryland. I've burned my Maryland diploma.

"They talk about Maryland pride," Friedgen later added. "They didn't show me a whole lot of Maryland pride."

Ten current Terps were part of Friedgen's final Maryland team in 2010.

Quarterback C.J. Brown called it "ironic" that the Terps play Friedgen and Rutgers on Saturday in the final game Brown and 21 other Maryland seniors will play at Byrd Stadium.

"It will be special seeing him, especially with it being Senior Day," Brown said. "Obviously he was the reason I came to this school. And for him to be here for my last home game is kind of ironic to say the least."

"It's going to be special, him coming here," said redshirt senior inside linebacker L.A. Goree, another member of that final Friedgen-led team in 2010. "But we don't want to make it too special for him."

Saturday's matchup is important to Maryland as well — it's an opportunity for the Terps (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) to further enhance their bowl resume after last week's 23-16 win at Michigan.

Friedgen will look to prevent Maryland from doing that with an offense that Goree says is run similarly to the one Friedgen ran with the Terps in 2010.

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While the Scarlet Knights (6-5, 2-5) lost standout running back Paul James to a season-ending knee injury early in the year and are ranked 91st nationally in total offense, quarterback Gary Nova has thrown 16 touchdown passes and Carroo is second in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game (85.4).

"He was very detailed," Terps offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said of Friedgen, whom Locksley coached under at Maryland in 2001 and 2002. "One of the things that I told people was 'I've taken a lot in the short time I was with Ralph.' I still do quite a bit of the data analysis stuff and the breakdown things that I learned under him. I still use them today. Very organized offense. They have the ability to run the football. They'll be well-coached and well-disciplined."

Defense has been a bigger issue for Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights have lost four of their past five games after beginning the season 5-1 and have allowed 37 points or more in each of those four losses, including during their 45-3 loss at Michigan State last week.

While Rutgers is fourth in the Big Ten with 31 sacks, they have allowed the highest yards per carry of any team in the conference (5.3) and rank third-worst in the Big Ten in pass defense efficiency.

Maryland enters Saturday as an 8.5-point favorite, according to ESPN.com.

"I think the thing with the team is we had something we wanted to prove this year," Terps coach Randy Edsall said. "There were a lot of doubters that said that we couldn't compete and win in the Big Ten. I think we proved we can compete and win in the Big Ten. … [Players] were on a mission and wanted to prove people wrong. They had a chip on their shoulder from the very beginning of the season. They still have a chip on their shoulder."

RUTGERS (6-5) @ MARYLAND (7-4)

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Site: Byrd Stadium

TV/Radio: ESPNU/105.7 FM

Series: Maryland, 5-4.

What's at stake: Maryland has a chance to finish its first regular season as a member of the Big Ten a highly respectable 8-4. The Terps can also improve their chances of landing in a desirable bowl game such as the TaxSlayer Bowl, formerly the Gator Bowl.

Key matchups: The most intriguing matchup will be longtime Maryland coach and current Rutgers offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen against Maryland's defense. This will be Friedgen's first time coaching in College Park since being fired by the Terps following the 2010 season. It is fair to assume Friedgen will look to get the better of his former team, especially considering the circumstances surrounding his departure.

Players to watch: Junior wide receiver Leonte Carroo is Rutgers' top offensive threat. Carroo is second in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game (85.4) and second in the conference with eight touchdown catches. While Carroo had just one catch for six yards during the Scarlet Knights' 45-3 loss to Michigan State last week, he recorded 100 yards or more in four of the previous six games. Redshirt freshman defensive end Kemoko Turay is one of the top threats on Rutgers' defense. A situational pass rusher, the athletic 6-foot-6, 235-pound freshman leads the Scarlet Knights with 7.5 sacks.

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