Terps going to Orlando

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The Maryland football team did not win a division title and a berth in the ACC title game in Jacksonville, Fla., but that didn’t stop the Terrapins from parlaying their turnaround season into a Florida trip.

The 8-4 Terrapins yesterday accepted an invitation to play Purdue (8-5) in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 29, the program’s first postseason appearance in three seasons.

“I went into our study hall and told them the news, and they let out a loud cheer,” coach Ralph Friedgen said of his players. “They’re really excited, and I think they’re really looking forward to it.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech (10-2) accepted a berth in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 30. The Hokies, who have won six straight, will meet Georgia (8-4)in their first trip to the Atlanta game since 1986.

Navy, which finished its season with four straight victories, learned its opponent in the Dec. 30 Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., as the ACC’s bowl situation shook out. The Midshipmen (9-3) will meet Boston College (9-3), coached by Naval Academy graduate Tom O’Brien.

“They have a great program,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “I certainly have a lot of respect for Coach O’Brien and what he’s done. It is going to be a great challenge. They are a big, physical team.”

Maryland’s trip to Orlando will cap a season that began with uncertainty whether the Terps could move past consecutive 5-6 seasons that seemingly derailed the program after three straight seasons of double-digit victories.

The Terps won eight of their first 10 before losing their final two regular-season games and squandering an opportunity to reach the conference title game. The late slide didn’t prevent the Champs Sports Bowl from picking Maryland over Clemson (8-4), which earned a Music City Bowl invitation, and Boston College, which defeated the Terps on Nov. 18.

Maryland also was considered a possibility for the Meineke Car Care Bowl and the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.

“Champs was our first choice of the bowls who were looking at us,” Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said. “This was where we wanted to go.”

The invitation was issued late in the afternoon after more than two hours of discussion by the bowl committee. Florida Citrus Sports executive director Steve Hogan said about 200 bowl representatives vetted Maryland, Boston College and Clemson before voting for the Terps.

“Really at the end, it just felt like Maryland had a lot of excitement around the team and their fans, and it made it an easy choice to bring Maryland to Orlando,” Hogan said.

The decision prevented a rematch of last year’s regular-season opener between Maryland and Navy, a game the Terps won in Baltimore in the teams’ first meeting since 1965. However, that would have required the Terps to fall past Orlando, which selected after the BCS took the conference champion and the Chick-fil-A and Gator bowls made their picks.

“We’ve had discussions with other bowls,” Yow said. “I don’t feel that probably it’s professional to talk about the substance of those conversations. I’m not aware of who’s going to Music City or Meineke, but I appreciate their interest in the University of Maryland.”

It will be Maryland’s first postseason appearance in Orlando since a 30-23 loss to Tennessee in the 1983 Citrus Bowl. The Terps also lost in Orlando to Florida in the 1980 Tangerine Bowl.

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