- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

The last time Maryland played Wake Forest, Bruce Perry took off for an 80-yard touchdown run on the Terrapins' first play. The compact tailback finished with 276 yards, the most ever allowed by the Demon Deacons and the second biggest day for a Maryland runner.

Perry went on to earn ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors after rushing for 1,242 yards and helping the Terps win the conference title. But this season has been as frustrating as last year's was super for the 5-foot-9, 196-pound junior.

Perry missed all but one play in Maryland's first nine games because of injuries. However, he has been productive the last three weeks. One of the few bright spots in Maryland's 48-13 loss to Virginia last week was Perry, who ran for 95 yards on 10 carries.

"I see him getting better every week," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "He's further along than he was last week. I still didn't think he was at full speed. I don't think he has the full acceleration that he had last year. But each day I see him progressing."

Perry took a pitchout and ran 39 yards down the left sideline on the game's first series to set up Maryland's only touchdown. Since returning, he has split time with Chris Downs, who has been the featured back most of the season and was named All-ACC this week.

Perry had 17 carries for 69 yards, including a game-sealing 24-yard touchdown, against Clemson. He also had a 9-yard TD in the third quarter of Maryland's comeback win over N.C. State.

The Philadelphia native underwent surgery last spring to remove calcium deposits from his abdomen, missing spring practice and the early part of fall practice. He tore a groin muscle in a subsequent fall practice and missed the first seven games. On his first play against Duke, he strained a chest muscle and missed the rest of that game and the following week's.

Friedgen said he and Perry discussed applying to the NCAA for a medical redshirt, which would have allowed the player to repeat his junior season. However, they decided not to risk getting the request denied once Perry was healthy enough to play.

"Bruce has wanted to play and contribute," Friedgen said, "and I think he has."

Break the bowls

Friedgen has long been a proponent of a playoff to replace the current bowl system. The chaos of the current format is under heavy scrutiny again this week at Virginia and Maryland after N.C. State was selected for the Gator Bowl, which in theory is supposed to go to the ACC's second-place team. The 21st-ranked Wolfpack can finish no better than tied for third and will finish fourth behind Florida State, Virginia and Maryland if the Terps beat Wake Forest.

Friedgen is not alone among conference coaches calling for a playoff.

"I certainly am [in favor of a playoff]," said Virginia's Al Groh, the league's coach of the year. "For a number of reasons this hocus pocus being one of them."

Wake Forest also is unhappy with the system, but for a different reason.

The 6-5 Demon Deacons became bowl eligible last week with their 30-27 win over Navy but could be home for the holidays. The ACC has six bowl tie-ins and seven eligible teams. Wake Forest likely will be bowl eligible and home for the holidays for a second consecutive season if it loses to Maryland.

"We're in a very similar position," Deacons coach Jim Grobe said. "We're bowl-eligible now, and there are a lot of different scenarios that could put us into a bowl game at 6-6. But the problem is, we didn't go last year with six [victories]. I think our kids understand seven would look a lot better."

A Wake Forest win would leave it at 4-4 in the conference and in a three-way tie for fifth place with Clemson and Georgia Tech, and the Demon Deacons would challenge those two for spots in the Seattle Bowl and Continental Tire Bowl.

A team needs seven wins to qualify for an at-large spot outside of conference tie-ins. The only loophole is that if another conference perhaps the Big Ten can't fill all its spots, a bowl can select an unaffiliated six-win team.

Extra points

Wake Forest All-ACC defensive end Calvin Pace has a hairline shin fracture and is questionable for Saturday. The senior leads the ACC with 19 tackles for loss and has 8.5 sacks. The Demon Deacons are ninth nationally in rushing offense with 243.7 yards a game.

Friedgen will coach in the Rotary Gridiron Classic College All-Star Game on Jan.25 in Orlando, Fla. He will lead the U.S. team against an all-star team from Florida.

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