- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

A crowd of media and a few fans cheered lustily last night as the University of Maryland football team returned to campus after being trounced Wednesday night by the University of Florida in the Orange Bowl.

But somber coach Ralph Friedgen and his players did not appear disappointed as they climbed out of three buses behind Cole Field House, where the basketball Terrapins were readying for a game against Norfolk State.

"The fans have been super," Mr. Friedgen said of the 23,000 who followed the team to Miami and demonstrated unstinting support for a week. "They were louder and more supportive than Florida fans."

There were reasons for the scant welcoming party: The planes from Miami were delayed two hours, mainly because of heavy snow in Atlanta. Also, there was no publicity about the time and place of the team's arrival, and students were just returning from semester break.

The team was scheduled to return to campus between 3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. But the planes bearing the team, supporting staff and select family members didn't land at Baltimore-Washington International Airport until 4:20 p.m.

A state police cruiser, with red lights flashing and siren screaming, led the six-bus caravan down Interstate 95 to the Maryland campus.

"I learned about it on the Internet," said Bonnie Prissman, a junior from Silver Spring.

But, she added, "Even though they lost doesn't mean the fans shouldn't be here."

The 56-23 loss was the final game of the college career of strong safety Tony Jackson, of Ellicott City, Md., who said, "We can't be happy about it. It's over.

"Maryland fans were everywhere, just going crazy," he said, then praised Mr. Friedgen for his first season. "He wanted to teach us not to lose a football game. He did that."

The Orange Bowl loss was the second of the season. The 10 season wins were the most since 1976. Winning the Atlantic Coast Conference this season was the ninth for Maryland since 1953.

"I think they are disappointed," Mr. Friedgen said of his charges, adding, "We didn't play as well as we should, [but] we are still proud of our season.

"I feel very privileged to have coached these kids. I'm very proud of them," he said, citing especially the 19 seniors who played their last collegiate game in the Orange Bowl.

"We're starting all over again, beginning today. We're back to square one," Mr. Friedgen said. "We're a long way from where I want to be. I want to be where Florida is. I don't like to lose. I don't like to lose the way we did."

He said of the Florida team, "That's one of the finest college football teams I've seen in 32 years."

Mr. Friedgen said he expressed those thoughts to Florida coach Steve Spurrier, and was not critical of Florida running up the score.

"He's got beef and speed," Mr. Friedgen said. "I'm not asking for mercy. We, too, try to score as many points as possible."

The coach said he was going home to watch Miami and Nebraska play, probably for the national championship, in the Rose Bowl "If I don't go to sleep."

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