The Aughts in review: Top 10 Maryland football moments

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Call them what you will (personally, I still like the Aughts, myself), but the last 10 years have brought plenty to the area college sports scene.

Enough, in fact, to start breaking out into top 10 lists during an extremely quiet spot on the calendar.

Consider this the first of many looks back to be sprinkled in over the coming days. If all goes right, there were will be similar lists on Maryland basketball, area college basketball and area college lacrosse before the holidays arrive.

First up, though, is Maryland football – and the program’s top 10 moments from the last decade.

10. Maryland stuns Florida State (2004): Looking back, it’s a ridiculous anomaly stuck in the middle of an awful stretch. Yes, the Terrapins really did beat the Seminoles for the first time. Yes, Joel Statham really was that good on that particular day. Yes, it did infuse hope into what soon reverted to a lost season. And yes, it was Maryland’s first victory over a top-five team since 1955. Despite the rest of the season, this was still significant.

9. E.J. Henderson wins the Butkus Award (2002): In terms of individual accomplishments, this was the biggest development of the decade. Henderson, so dominant as a junior, came back to school and wound up collecting even more hardware. He wasn’t honored for his best season (really, 28 tackles for loss in 11 regular season games is absurd), and he didn’t wind up a first-round pick. But he probably was the program’s best individual player of the decade and warrants a spot on the list.

8. Maryland upsets Matt Ryan and Boston College (2007):Ralph Friedgen was particularly mopey in the days leading into this November game. And why not? The injury-ravaged Terps were 4-5 and staring at playing a team that had just recently lost its first game. Oh, and that team had a Heisman candidate at quarterback. Except this turned out to be the night everything came together for Maryland’s offense, and the Terps held on for a 42-35 victory. Maryland then split its final two games to earn an Emerald Bowl berth.

7. Maryland sweeps Florida State and Miami (2006): It looked so much bigger at the time, but it holds up as the highlight of that season’s tightrope act. The Terps became the first school to knock off both Sunshine State titans since Florida in 1985. The Miami game in particular signaled the emergence of Darrius Heyward-Bey, who flashed the speed that made a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft a few years later. Also a memorable play from the sweep: Jeremy Navarre blocking a field goal in the final minute to secure the defeat of Florida State.

6. Ralph Friedgen is hired as head coach (2000): Whether someone dwells on the first three years of Friedgen’s tenure or the last six, it’s undeniable his hire shaped the course of the program for nearly the entire decade. The program’s transformation from doormat to conference champion in less than a year was remarkable – and it started just a week after a Friedgen-led Georgia Tech offense helped assure Ron Vanderlinden’s tenure would end after four seasons.

5. Terps take down Georgia Tech in overtime (2001): Consider this the initial breakthrough of the Friedgen era. The Terps knocked off a ranked opponent for the first time since 1990, and did so in comeback fashion. Nick Novak – who to this point was 4-for-11 for his career – made a 46-yarder to force overtime, then added a 26-yarder in overtime. Yellow Jackets tailback Joe Burns fumbled during Tech’s series, handing the victory and bowl eligibility to Maryland.

4. Maryland routs Tennessee in Peach Bowl (2002): It was not a vintage Phil Fulmer outfit (and in many ways it presaged the pending fall of the Volunteers in the years to come). But the Terps still dismantled Tennessee 30-3, holding the Volunteers to 45 yards rushing. It was Maryland’s first bowl victory since 1985.

3. Maryland Ambushes N.C. State in wild comeback (2003): The Terps trailed the Wolfpack 24-10 in the middle of the fourth quarter on Philip Rivers‘ senior day, and it appeared the Wolfpack would finally fend off a pesky Maryland team that had owned it throughout Rivers’ career. Two quick touchdown drives brought the Terps within 24-23, but Novak missed an extra point. No matter. Leroy Ambush forced a fumble as the Wolfpack tried to kill the final 2:29, and Novak connected from 43 yards to clinch the improbable victory.

2. Terps rout West Virginia in Gator Bowl (New Year’s Day 2004): Maryland’s trip to Jacksonville was everything it could have wanted – nice weather, huge crowd and a 41-7 demolition of the Mountaineers. Scott McBrien threw for a career-best 381 yards in his final game, Steve Suter brought back a punt for a touchdown and West Virginia was effectively toast by the middle of the second quarter. Maryland capped a three-year stretch at 31-8, but little did anyone known it would be high tide for the decade.

1. Rally at N.C. State secures Orange Bowl berth (2001): The Terps already had a share of the ACC crown, but they needed to top the Wolfpack to ensure a BCS berth. After some harrowing moments, Shaun Hill connected with Guilian Gary for a touchdown in the final minute to lock up a 23-19 victory. Maryland’s postseason destination was obvious from the oranges tossed into the end zone at the end of the game. It was the Terps’ first – and, to date, only – ACC title since 1985.

Patrick Stevens

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