- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2001

Orange? Sugar? Fiesta?
All the Maryland Terrapins know for sure is that the Bowl Championship Series party is definitely on.
The eighth-ranked Terrapins arrived home early yesterday morning as the champions of the ACC, a title earned with a heart-stopping 23-19 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday night. The crowning achievement was made possible by a touchdown pass from Shaun Hill to Guilian Gary with 41 seconds remaining.
Maryland (10-1) ended the regular season with its first 10-win season in a quarter-century and first conference title in 16 seasons. The magical rise under first-year coach Ralph Friedgen snapped a streak of five losing seasons in College Park. The Terps' current ranking is their highest since the preseason poll of 1985.
"It's amazing the year that it's been," said Friedgen, the first coach to win the ACC in his first season. "I was telling our players on Friday night it was about a week from now [last year] I was just interviewing for this job. It's just an unbelievable year of my life."
Maryland earned the ACC's berth in the BCS and is penciled in for the Jan. 2 Orange Bowl. However, bowl officials seeking a particular matchup could make a deal that would send the Terps to the Sugar Bowl or, less likely, the Fiesta. The bids will be extended in early December after the end of the regular season. It is quite a change for Friedgen, 54, who spent 32 seasons as an assistant before returning to his alma mater as the head coach.
"It's incredible," said Friedgen, fighting back tears. "Just incredible. To want to be a coach for so long. Then all of a sudden it happens. And the things that have gotten accomplished, even for me, were beyond my wildest dreams."
The Terps' fantasies all came true this season. First, they won six games, ensuring a winning season and a bowl berth for the first time since 1990. The Terps in fact started 7-0, including a miraculous overtime win at Georgia Tech. Maryland had not won more than six games in its previous 15 seasons. The Terps won a share of the conference title in a rout of Clemson before the first sellout at Byrd Stadium in six seasons, and they captured the title outright with a fabulous finish at North Carolina State.
That win gave Maryland sole possession of the ACC championship, ending a nine-year run in which Florida State either won outright or shared the crown.
"It's a completely different mindset," said Gary, a senior who had seven catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns against the Wolfpack. "People have to play up to us now. We're there now. We're in the BCS."
Getting there wasn't easy on Saturday. Terps receiver Rich Parson appeared to be on his way to a go-ahead, 65-yard touchdown reception with 2:51 remaining in the game. But Parson fumbled at the 1-yard line, the Wolfpack recovered, and it looked like Maryland's magic had vanished. The 'Pack led 19-16 and needed only one or two first downs to run out the clock.
But the Terps defense forced a three-and-out. Linebacker Mike Whaley made a big stop, dropping tailback Ray Robinson for a 3-yard loss on second-and-5. Maryland used two timeouts on defense and was helped when Dovonte Edwards ran out of bounds on third down. Maryland got the ball back with 2:19 left on its own 39 with no timeouts left.
"The two-minute drill tends to go more smoothly for us because we practice it so much," said center Melvin Fowler, recalling a similar drive that led to the game-tying field goal at Georgia Tech as time expired. "It's so amazing when the team can rally and execute like that."
Maryland went on a 10-play, 61-yard drive that took 1:38 as many on the bench prayed for divine intervention. Friedgen said the Wolfpack's soft zone was like "free money" allowing the Terps to work downfield. Maryland converted a fourth-and-5 with a 9-yard pass to Bruce Perry. Gary had three catches for 34 yards in the series, including the 8-yard touchdown pass just inside the front right pylon.
"Our guys were confident because they've been there before," Friedgen said. "It wins games for you, that [two-minute] drill. That's why you have to practice it, become good at it and become confident."
After Tony Jackson's interception in the final minute, the gleeful Terps danced and sang the night away from the locker room to the bus to the plane back home. Maryland had completed its transition from league non-factor to ACC champions in one phenomenal season.
"They're almost giddy," said Friedgen, after addressing the players yesterday. "My next problem is saying we have to win this [bowl] game, not just show up."
Notes
Friedgen's 10-1 record is the best by any first-year head coach since 1991 … The team was given the week off and will begin lifting and conditioning next week. Practice starts the first week of December.


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