College Park was quiet last night as University of Maryland football fans anticipated the Terrapins face-off with the University of Florida Gators in the Miami’s Orange Bowl.
The Terps are enjoying their best season since 1976, when the team lost the Cotton Bowl to the University of Houston. Last night’s game was the team’s first bowl appearance in 11 seasons.
Florida was favored by more than two touchdowns, and Maryland was ranked sixth just behind them in the Associated Press and ESPN polls.
Nevertheless, students remained enthusiastic.
At Delta Tau Delta fraternity, about 30 students gathered to watch the game on the house’s big-screen television.
“Maryland’s got a shot if Bruce Perry has a good game,” said Jeff Enama, 21.
Most students do not return to the campus from winter break until the end of the month, so there were no organized places to watch the game on campus.
At Santa Fe, an off-campus student hangout, 22 televisions were tuned to the Terps.
Recent graduate Steve Moulis arrived two hours before the game.
“There’s no better way to celebrate than being in a bar down here,” he answered when asked why he traveled about 20 miles from his home in Severn.
Greg Sanders, Santa Fe’s general manager, could think of one way. Thirty members of his staff, he said, had made the trip to Florida.
Police said they didn’t expect any trouble. Only about eight to 10 Prince George’s County police officers patrolled Route 1, where most off-campus bars are clustered.
“We are increasing patrols by a few officers,” said Cpl. Diane Richardson, a county police spokeswoman. “We don’t expect a problem, and if there is we have plenty of officers on call.”
Things turned ugly several times in the past year at the University of Maryland, starting with a brawl that broke out after the men’s basketball team’s upset of Duke University in February.
The most serious trouble came after the basketball team lost to Duke in the Final Four in April.
Thousands of drunken revelers set more than 60 fires on and off campus, the biggest fire roaring so high that it destroyed television lines. Many fires were set near campus, causing ian estimated $500,000 in damage.
When police and firefighters tried to restore order, they were taunted and pelted with bottles. One mob rocked a firetruck so violently it was forced to leave the scene.
Rowdy celebrations continued this fall with the success of the football team. Police cracked down in November after the team’s final victory, enforcing a zero-tolerance policy on fires and arresting 15 persons.
Students thought with the majority of campus away on winter break, there would be no trouble.
“We’d be the only ones out there,” said Lindsay Scoggins, 20, a student enrolled in an intersession course that begins today.
“It’s a good thing it’s not during the school year,” added her colleague Pat Zimmerman, 19.
In Miami, University of Maryland spokesman George Cathcart said many of the 22,000 Terp fans in that city for the game had been partying since they arrived over the weekend. But he reported no incidents of rowdiness.
Many of the fans in Florida for the game are alumni, but at least 3,000 student tickets were sold, Mr. Cathcart said.