- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 30, 2002

E.J. Henderson is not known for his emotions. The All-American linebacker doesn't strut after making one of his bone-jarring hits. He is a businessman on the field who keeps a low-key demeanor and rarely gets caught up in the passion of the moment.

But Henderson, who is a finalist for all the country's major defensive awards, concedes he may get choked up when he is introduced with his parents today. The celebrated senior will play his final game at Byrd Stadium when 25th-ranked Maryland plays host to Wake Forest.

"It will never be like this again," said Henderson, one of Maryland's 10 seniors. "A lot of people in the [NFL] tell me it will never be like this again. It doesn't matter how long the season is or how tired you are this is something you have to cherish."

The Terrapins (9-3, 5-2 ACC) hope to commemorate the regular season finale with a victory that they feel will land them in the Dec.31 Peach Bowl in Atlanta. A win would tie them for second in the conference with Virginia (8-4, 6-2), which stomped the Terps 48-13 last week. The unranked Cavaliers also believe they have Peach Bowl credentials, especially if they upset No.22 Virginia Tech today.

Maryland feels it will have the edge because it probably will be ranked higher and has more overall wins, In addition, the presence of coach Ralph Friedgen, a popular figure in Atlanta from his time at Georgia Tech who is friends with several Peach Bowl committee members, could help.

The Peach Bowl invitation likely will come tonight, and the Tangerine Bowl is expected to select the other team.

Meanwhile, Wake Forest is fighting for a lesser bowl. The Demon Deacons (6-5, 3-5) became bowl eligible with a 30-27 win over Navy last week but still may not get a postseason invitation if they don't upset the Terps. Wake likely will be without its top defender, All-ACC defensive end Calvin Pace, who suffered a broken leg last week.

A crowd of 40,000 is expected to send off Maryland's senior class, which has five All-ACC members in tailback Chris Downs, center Todd Wike, offensive tackle Matt Crawford, punter Brooks Barnard and Henderson, the league's defensive player of the year for a second straight season.

"It's starting to hit me a little bit that this thing is coming to a close," said Wike, who saw Maryland end a decade-long bowl drought with an ACC title and Orange Bowl berth last season. These Terps can become the first in program history to record two consecutive 10-win seasons.

The sentiments will be put on hold as the Terps try to get the season back untracked after last week's derailment in Charlottesville. Maryland won eight straight before that flop ended its ACC championship and BCS bowl hopes.

"After the game, I thought we might have quit," said Friedgen, who has shortened practices in hopes of reinvigorating his team. "I saw us getting tired. I saw us wearing down. But I never saw kids not compete."

Quarterback Scott McBrien feels the grind of a 13-game season has taken its toll. The quarterback, who had just one interception in the first seven weeks of the winning streak, has had four touchdowns and five interceptions over the past two games. He couldn't get the offense going after its first two series at Virginia.

"We just had a mental breakdown," McBrien said. "As bad as I don't want to say this, I feel like we had to lose just to give us a wake-up call. I wish it never happened. But it did. We're all refocused, and we put that behind us."

The Terps are favored by nearly two touchdowns against Wake Forest, whose best win came at Georgia Tech 24-21. The Deacons have the country's ninth-rated rushing offense at 243.7 yards a game. Tailback Tarence Williams is averaging 110.5 yards rushing over the past four games.

"If we can run it a little bit and complete a few passes off of play-action, then I think we have a chance," Deacons coach Jim Grobe said.

Maryland, whose defense allows 129.8 yards rushing a game, hopes to eliminate that threat early and allow its seniors to exit in style.

Henderson expects a close game, but if he has his way, it will be over at halftime.

"In the fourth quarter, I just want to be on the sideline chilling, thinking about my time spent at Maryland looking at the fans, looking at the stadium, looking at the scoreboard," he said. "I think the program has made great strides, and there is a lot more to come. I feel I was a part of that. I can only be happy. I can't be sad because I'm leaving. I have done my time, and everybody has to move on."

With a victory, Friedgen will set a record for victories by a second-year coach in the ACC. He has an overall 19-5 record, tying the mark of Clemson's Ken Hatfield, who was 19-4-1 at Clemson in 1990 and 1991.


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