- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Maryland's lopsided loss to Virginia cost the Terrapins not only a possible Bowl Championship Series bid but any shot at a New Year's game.

The Gator Bowl, which has the second choice among ACC teams after the BCS, surprisingly announced yesterday that it has selected N.C. State for its Jan.1 game. The Wolfpack were chosen despite trailing Maryland and Virginia in conference standings and having lost to both teams.

"I was upset," said Terps coach Ralph Friedgen after receiving the news. "To me, that's why you play the season. The fact that essentially Virginia, and if we were to win Saturday, Virginia and Maryland would tie for second. Florida State is first. Essentially, N.C. State is fourth. The fact that they would be able to jump over both of us to go to the Gator Bowl I realize it's the bowl's privilege to do that. I don't have to agree."

The 25th-ranked Terps likely will go to the Dec.31 Peach Bowl in Atlanta if they beat Wake Forest in their final regular-season game. A loss to the Demon Deacons or a Virginia upset of No.22 Virginia Tech on Saturday could drop Maryland to the Dec.23 Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Even though the Gator Bowl is slotted for the ACC's second-place team, it can select a different one as long as it is within one game of second place in the final conference standings.

The 21st-ranked Wolfpack (10-3, 5-3 ACC), whose regular season is over, were chosen because they have a higher ranking and momentum after handing Florida State its only league loss Saturday. Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett said the Terps (9-3, 5-2) were hurt not only by their loss to the Cavaliers, but the manner of the 48-13 defeat.

"It is important not to lose late as it pertains to bowl games," Catlett said. "The bottom line is, we looked at results of last weekend's games. N.C. State beat the championship team. That tipped scales in its favor."

N.C. State lost its three previous games, including 24-21 to Maryland and 14-9 to Virginia (8-4, 6-2). The Gator Bowl committee had planned to wait until after this weekend to decide, but decided in meetings late Monday to select the Wolfpack.

The Wolfpack are also seen as a team that will bring a large contingent of fans, while Maryland supporters might not be as willing to travel after last week's disappointment and Virginia is not considered a strong draw. There are also indications that the ACC did not want a rematch between Maryland and West Virginia, and the winner of Saturday's West Virginia-Pittsburgh game will likely go as the Big East's representative.

"I don't think anybody travels better than us," said Friedgen, recalling that some 25,000 Maryland fans went to last season's Orange Bowl. "What's ironic on the whole thing is, if West Virginia is the other team, we beat both of those teams. Maybe we're too good to go to the Gator Bowl."

Players seemed to take the slight in stride rather than personally.

"It's a shame when you deal with bowl situations," said Steve Suter, one of eight Terps selected to the All-ACC first team yesterday. "It doesn't have to do with who's the better team a lot of times. It's all politics and money."

Linebacker E.J. Henderson, the ACC's defensive player of the year, feels there is not much difference between non-BCS bowls. "We realized we blew an opportunity [last week]," he said. "We're going to go to a bowl. That's better than staying home for Christmas."

Maryland will try to limit its distractions as it prepares for Wake Forest (6-5, 3-4), which needs a win to boost its bowl possibilities. In the aftermath of the dispiriting loss to the Cavaliers, the Terps held team meetings with the coaches and among themselves Monday before a night practice.

Friedgen has shortened practices this week in hopes of reinvigorating the group and feels he may have overlooked signs of emotional fatigue last week when team leaders approached him.

"No one kind of came out and said it, but I should've listened to them more," said Friedgen, who is encouraged by the team's energy in practice this week. "It was my fault. Because they were tired and were getting irritable. It's been a long season. I think we were flat."

The Terps will hold a short practice tomorrow morning and have the rest of Thanksgiving off.

Meanwhile N.C. State fans and players celebrated the Wolfpack's third consecutive bowl trip.

"It's another way of getting free advertising for your university in a state that has a lot of numbers," coach Chuck Amato said. "It gives us exposure for seven or eight days. We're 15 points away from being undefeated don't lose sight of that."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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