- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

As Maryland fights for a bowl bid over the final weeks of the season, the Terrapins also can have a big say in the ACC championship race.

The Terrapins (4-4, 2-3 ACC) visit No.12 Virginia (6-1, 3-1) on Saturday and No.18 Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-1) on Nov.18 before finishing against Wake Forest (4-4, 1-4) on Nov.27. Maryland, which needs two wins to become bowl eligible, is in the unfamiliar role of spoiler.

Virginia, Virginia Tech and Miami (6-1, 3-1) all have four games remaining, including meetings against each other. The round-robin finish could decide the crown, but a loss to Maryland by Virginia or Virginia Tech probably would eliminate them. The Terps don’t play Miami.

“We will spoil a lot of teams by winning,” linebacker William Kershaw said yesterday. “That would be fun, too.”

Coach Ralph Friedgen has conceded Maryland has no chance at the title and is more concerned about reaching a fourth straight bowl. A 6-5 mark could send the Terps to the MPC Computers Bowl on Dec.27 in Boise, Idaho. A 7-4 finish might mean the Continental Tire Bowl on Dec.30 in Charlotte, N.C., Peach Bowl on Dec.31 in Atlanta or possibly the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec.21 in Orlando, Fla.

Maryland appeared headed for a 3-8 season before it upset Florida State 20-17 on Saturday and rekindled hopes of a bowl bid.

“We’re going to find out how much more character we have,” Friedgen said. “If we pull this one off it’s a sign of what kind of a team we have a chance to be. Everything is still there. It’s just a matter of how bad we want to go out and get it.”

Friedgen nearly cried following the victory against Florida State after the tension and frustration of three straight losses ended. There were animated backroom discussions during preparation for the game. Friedgen admitted he looked as though he was “90 years old” on his FridgeTV.com show. “I’m not much to look at anyway, but when I think I look bad that’s not good.

“I felt there was a tension within our staff I hadn’t witnessed since I came here. They were arguing some points. I think that’s good. I like conflict. When things are going too smooth I worry about it. They came up with a [heckuva] plan. If that’s what it took to get it done maybe that’s what we should do every week.”

The players also handled adversity, especially underclassmen who weren’t part of a 15-year malaise before Friedgen arrived in 2001. Fifth-year seniors recalled the lean times, but the Ron Vanderlinden days seemed like decades ago.

“They came into this season thinking ‘I’m coming to Maryland, we win 10 games every year and don’t have to do anything for it,’” Friedgen said. “Then all of a sudden they found out life isn’t like that.

“There’s a real mind-set among young people I’m seeing these days that when they work hard they think success should come immediately. … You have to hang in there and keep fighting, but you tell kids that and they look at you like you’re from Mars sometimes.”

The Terps must avoid a letdown after their first upset of a top-five team in 21 years. Virginia’s offense is ranked atop the ACC and among the nation’s elite in rushing (seventh), total offense (eighth) and scoring (10th).

“There won’t be as much of an emotional letdown as much as a boost,” cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. “We haven’t done much [this season]. We’re .500, but we beat a good team. To have a bowl to shoot for will help our motivation.”

Note — Guard Brandon Nixon (ankle) is out against Virginia while receiver Dan Melendez (hamstring) is doubtful. Receivers Derrick Fenner (ankle) and Steve Suter (hamstring), safety Ray Custis (groin), linebacker Wesley Jefferson (high ankle sprain) and tight end Rob Abiamiri (shoulder) are probable.

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