First Things First

Maryland officials have put out extensive instructions on parking and pregame traffic, referring ticket holders to 39 area radio stations that provide traffic updates, for example. And while traffic backups and the lack of on-campus cash parking could make for some late arrivals, the first moments of the game might prove crucial. Last year's Virginia Tech rout over Maryland was largely engineered in the first quarter, when the Hokies shot out to a 21-3 lead. Virginia Tech hasn't yielded any first-quarter points in five straight games, while Maryland's offense has been least effective in the opening period, scoring a total of 19 points.

Turn, Turn, Turn

If you're watching on TV, expect to hear at least as many discussions about turnovers as John "Fitness Made Simple" Basedow pitches. It would be impossible to overstate the importance of turnovers in this game. Virginia Tech is second in the nation in turnover margin, having gained 14 and lost just two, while Maryland had struggled in that category until facing lowly Temple. The Hokies scored 31 points off turnovers in last year's win over the Terps and have scored five touchdowns on defense or special teams this season. "They score more than some offenses," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said. "This team is like sharks feeding for a turnover. . . . We just can't turn the ball over and expect to win this game."

Jackson Returns . . .

Middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson missed Maryland's last game because of a leg injury, and while the Terps didn't need their best player against Temple, they surely will tonight. Jackson has led the team in tackles two seasons in a row, and his 72 tackles are the most in the ACC and 29 more than his nearest teammate. Jackson resumed full-contact drills Monday and said he would be close to 100 percent by game time. Friedgen said his team was helped merely by Jackson returning to practice. "He's the leader of this football team, and having him there makes a difference," the coach said.

. . . Humes Does Not

Virginia Tech leading rusher Cedric Humes broke his right arm in the Hokies' win over Marshall and Coach Frank Beamer has ruled the tailback out of tonight's game. His replacements, though, are hardly shabby. Mike Imoh, a Fairfax County native who started nine games last year, has returned from a sprained ankle that kept him out against Marshall. Imoh gained 35 yards and scored two touchdowns against Maryland last year before straining his hamstring in the first quarter. His backup tonight, freshman Branden Ore, carried 19 times for 146 yards against Marshall.

Tapp vs. Gaither

Hokies all-ACC defensive end Darryl Tapp has been relatively quiet this year with three sacks and a forced fumble. Last year, he had 8.5 sacks, 23 quarterback hurries, an interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. The senior, who was heavily recruited by Maryland, is expected to line up against Terps freshman left tackle Jared Gaither, who has not allowed a sack in three starts but has not faced a player as dangerous as Tapp.