- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2006

ORLANDO, Fla. — For four seasons, a running joke in the Maryland football program was wondering aloud when special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski would finally unleash punter Adam Podlesh for a fake punt.

Last night’s Champs Sports Bowl was the last chance for the Terrapins to take advantage of their unusually athletic punter

Rychleski was pestered about using Podlesh, a linebacker and running back in high school, throughout the four-year starter’s career. Podlesh ran a 4.44 40-yard dash last spring, but was never a part of the lobbying effort and never ended up running any fakes.

“I really never really asked them about it,” Podlesh said. “You have the other coaches and the players that actually have been hounding on him more so than I have. I’m out there to do what they tell me to do.”

Podlesh, though, was amused by the constant chatter and admitted it would be fun if it could have happened. However, one of the reasons the Terps went 8-4 during the regular season was generally favorable field position, and Podlesh’s 43.1-yard average and ability to pin 21 of his 63 punts inside the 20 was a significant part of the success.

“We’re fundamentals over gimmicks. We’re sound, we’ve got a great punter and a very good snapper and we take a lot of pride,” Rychleski said. “They wanted me to run a fake punt when it was fourth-and-1 against Miami when we were thinking about going for it. If we ran the fake and didn’t make it, there would have been 52,000 people ready to lynch me.”

Terps’ betting man

Maryland lost six games last season and the season before by 10 points or less, and a reversal of any of them would have ensured at least one more bowl berth for the Terps.

Instead, Maryland didn’t reach the postseason either year. The trend reversed this season, and Maryland won six games by less than a touchdown.

“It hurt to lose all those close games. This year, when we were winning all the close ones, I got to see how the other teams felt,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “It was great. Sometimes, you have to take on step back to take two steps forward. Hopefully, that will be what we are able to do and from now on go to a bowl every year. Hopefully, these guys will get to play for a national title so I can bet on ‘em.”

Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh then interrupted Wilson and told reporters the cornerback was only kidding. The loquacious senior, though, managed to get the last word.

“Hey,” Wilson shrugged with a grin, “I’ll be ineligible.”

Geography lesson

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen used one of the bowl events to personally compliment several of Purdue’s players.

Defensive end Anthony Spencer, who leads the nation in tackles for loss with 26½, was one of the Boilermakers targeted for praise. So was wide receiver Dorien Bryant, who led the Big Ten in receptions (79) and yards (967).

Those were especially appealing numbers to Friedgen, who went much of the season with only three reliable wide receivers. A quick look at Bryant’s hometown prompted even more interest.

“I asked ‘How does a kid from New Jersey go by Maryland to go to Purdue?” said Friedgen, who added Bryant laughed at the question.

Quick kicks

Florida Citrus Sports renamed the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in honor of Tom Mickle before last night’s game. Mickle, who was the executive director of the organization from 2002 until his death in April, is credited for designing the Bowl Coalition in 1992, which later gave way to the Bowl Alliance and the current Bowl Championship Series. …

ESPN’s broadcast crew featured alums of both schools. Former Purdue quarterback Bob Griese was the analyst, while Maryland grad Bonnie Bernstein was the sideline reporter.

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