Maryland Coach Bobby Ross, minus raincoat, trudged through a modest sprinkling of wet stuff today, examined the soggy Scott Stadium AstroTurf and canceled the Terrapins' scheduled workout.
Ross was not indicating any lack of concern for the Cavaliers, against whom Maryland closes its regular season here Saturday at 1:30. He simply does not consider the surface especially meaningful in determining the outcome of a game, even though Maryland has played on artificial turf only twice and not since Oct. 2 at Syracuse.
"I don't think any special preparation is needed for turf," Ross said. "If I did, we'd be out there working on it. We do some things on our turf practice field, two or three different things. It gives us a feel for it and a jump for it. But I'd rather work out on grass."
If Ross is unconcerned about the surface, he claims to be equally undisturbed by the possibility of a letdown by the 7-3 Terrapins, who could hardly be blamed for considering 2-7 Virginia a pushover after three weeks of sparring with national powers North Carolina, Miami and Clemson. Maryland has beaten the Cavaliers 10 straight times, the last two seasons by a combined 79-7.
"We've had good practices and the players should have reached the stage of maturity where it would not affect them," Ross said. "The last few years don't matter; the game has to be played tomorrow."
Additionally, Ross ruled out any plans to display a pineapple to his team at kickoff time, even though the Terrapins are apparently secure of Christmas in Honolulu for the Aloha Bowl.
"No pep talk is needed," Ross said. "We expect to do it with execution."
If the last two meetings have seemed like executions for the Cavaliers, they are not entering this contest with their heads down. Virginia has improved in recent weeks and Coach George Welsh is optimistic.
"The injuries that plagued us have tailed off a bit and we've been able to start the same team the last three or four weeks," Welsh said. "It's made a difference and we are playing better as a result. Before that, we'd started three games in a row with different right tackles and different right guards.
"We had centers out and tight ends and wideouts. Everybody in the backfield was hurt off and on except (Antonio) Rice. It's tough to be consistent with that many changes."
Welsh had to make one move for this game, since a calf injury sidelined cornerback William Frazier, the sophomore out of Herndon High. He will be replaced by senior Howard Lewis, a 1981 starter who has been hampered by a shoulder problem.
Maryland is missing defensive tackle Gurnest Brown because of a sprained ankle. Junior Pete Koch will take Brown's place.
Senior Gordie Whitehead is expected to start at quarterback for Virginia, although Welsh planned to tell Whitehead and junior Wayne Schuchts of his decision tonight and let Maryland wait to find out at game time.
Whitehead suffered a dislocated shoulder playing baseball last spring and lost his starting job as a result. But Mike Eck, the No. 1 man at season's start, needed surgery to repair a dislocated thumb and his replacement, Schuchts, suffered a cracked rib. So Whitehead took over at Georgia Tech two weeks ago and was very effective. As alternates in last week's 27-14 loss to North Carolina, neither Whitehead nor Schuchts earned anything more than a headache.
Three Maryland natives will be in the Cavaliers' starting lineup. Rice, a freshman who played at Great Mills before shifting to McKinley in the District of Columbia, is Virginia's leading rusher with 704 yards on 173 carries. Senior safety Pat Chester, from Cambridge, has 15 career interceptions, two short of the ACC record held by Maryland's Tom Brown. The third Marylander is senior defensive tackle Jim Hyson of Union Bridge.
This is a homecoming for Eric Wilson, Maryland's sophomore linebacker who ranks second to Joe Wilkins in tackles with 93. Wilson was the first player at Charlottesville High ever to have his jersey retired.
Howard and Morgan State will renew their frequently bitter rivalry at Howard Stadium at 1 p.m., with the 5-5 Bison hoping for a winning record and the 4-6 visitors anxious to deny them.
Howard is still smarting from the loss to Western Illinois, when the Bison played what Coach Floyd Keith called "37 minutes of the worst football in America."
Tracy Singleton needs 104 yards in pass receptions to reach 1,000 for the third straight season, a feat that has never been accomplished in Howard's football history.