- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Maryland's storybook season will conclude by the palm trees and tropical shores of South Florida.
The seventh-ranked Terrapins formally accepted a bid to the Orange Bowl yesterday and will play an undetermined opponent Jan. 2 in Miami. It will be Maryland's first postseason appearance since 1990 and first New Year's bowl in a quarter-century.
"It seems like something right out of Hollywood," said first-year coach Ralph Friedgen, who took over a program that had five straight losing seasons. "I hope it has a happy ending."
The ACC champion Terps (10-1) likely will meet No. 6 Florida, which would gain an at-large BCS bid if second-ranked Tennessee wins the SEC title Saturday. If LSU upsets the Volunteers, Tennessee could be the opponent.
The decision to invite Maryland was made Monday during a BCS conference call. The selections were scheduled to be announced Sunday, but the Terps got an early call, as did Big Ten champion Illinois, which was chosen for the Sugar Bowl.
"We just had a great moment in University of Maryland sports," athletic director Debbie Yow said yesterday afternoon at a news conference.
Yow had urged the committee to accelerate the process to help with ticket sales and travel plans. Bowls reportedly were hesitant about taking Maryland because of fears that its fans don't travel well and that not many would make a long journey to support the Terps. Yow said that had no merit and expected Maryland easily to surpasses the 15,000 tickets mandated to be sold by each school.
"We fully anticipate 20,000 very enthusiastic Terrapins to go to South Florida," said Yow, adding that 3,000 bowl tickets were sold before Maryland knew its destination.
The mood was gleeful in College Park as players took part in light workouts regular practices resume Saturday. Senior safety Randall Jones didn't have a bowl preference but is thrilled to know where the team is going. The Terps have been idle since finishing the season Nov. 17 with a 23-19 last-minute win over N.C. State that clinched the conference title.
"It's been three hard years," said Jones, who played on teams with a combined 13-20 record from 1998 to 2000. "This year, all the work to get there just paid off. To go to your first bowl, and that be in the BCS, is huge."
Friedgen, who likely will sweep the national coach of the year awards, had a detailed five-year plan when he started at his alma mater. This season the modest goal was six wins and any bowl berth. That blueprint finished with the Terps winning the ACC title and going to the BCS in 2005.
"The five-year plan was there," Friedgen said. "We just started on the fifth year."
The coach will try to use his extensive experience in 32 seasons as an assistant to educate his players and limit the advantage of an opponent used to being on a national stage.
"These kids have no clue about being in a bowl game or what they are going to go through," said Friedgen, who believes his team should not feel pressure as a decisive underdog. "We should play loose and have fun. … We just have to go up there, fire all our bullets and see if we hit any."
Maryland's aim has been true so far. It ousted nine-time defending ACC champion Florida State from its lofty perch. In one magical season, Maryland moved from a losing program into the top 10 as it prepares for one of the biggest games in its history.
"There was a lack of confidence, and they questioned whether they could win or would win," said Friedgen, recalling his arrival on campus. "Here we are 10-1 and playing some of the traditionally great schools in a venue like the Orange Bowl."
Friedgen said wide receiver Steve Suter, who missed most of the season with a broken finger, should be back. The coach is also optimistic All-ACC cornerback Tony Okanlawon, who missed the last four games with an undisclosed medical condition, also could return. "Hopefully, we might even have Tony O back," Friedgen said. "We'll see." …
The last time Maryland played in a New Year's game was the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1977, when Houston handed the previously undefeated Terps and quarterback Mark Manges a 30-21 loss. …
Maryland last was in the Orange Bowl in 1956, when it lost to Oklahoma 20-6. The Terps also lost to the Sooners 7-0 in the same bowl two years earlier.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide