- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2003

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien can’t escape West Virginia. Then again, why should he? The Mountaineers have been good to their former passer.

“His family sits around with my family and said if Scott plays West Virginia every week he’d be a Heisman Trophy candidate,” said Mountaineers safety Brian King, who remains close friends with McBrien. “He’s slapped me in my face twice since he’s been at Maryland. It’s been very embarrassing for me, my family and the defensive staff … losing the way we did at Byrd [Stadium] this year.”

No. 24 Maryland (9-3) meets No.21 West Virginia (8-4) in tomorrow’s Gator Bowl in McBrien’s college finale. The senior has twice beaten the Mountaineers convincingly, including 34-7 on Sept.20 when he passed for 220 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 47 yards. Maryland defeated West Virginia 48-17 last year behind McBrien’s 162 yards, one touchdown pass and another score rushing.

They were emotional games for McBrien, who this week again was put off-limits to the media by coach Ralph Friedgen. Friedgen wants to minimize distractions for McBrien when the quarterback faces West Virginia, where he was branded a “traitor” by Mountaineers fans for leaving after one season. However, when the Terrapins got the Gator Bowl bid on Dec.1, McBrien admitted playing his old team one more time will be “weird.”

“I never felt I would play them three times, especially in a bowl game,” he said. “I’ve been through it twice before so nothing should be any different. It is a nice way to end. I have a lot of friends on that team, and being on the field with them again will be something special. Playing West Virginia in my last college game is weird, but I’m not really focusing on the fact that it is West Virginia.”

However, McBrien didn’t mind Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez being forced once more to discuss why he let the passer leave. Neither reveals particulars on the exit, though Terps sources said it was a bitter breakup.

“I feel bad for [Rodriguez],” McBrien said. “I’m sure he was glad I was out of his way, and now he’ll have to deal with more questions.”

Certainly, it has been a solid two-year career for McBrien since spending 2001 as a walk-on with the scout team. McBrien is 10th among ACC quarterbacks in career passing efficiency (139.6). His 4,788 yards are second most by an ACC left-handed passer. The Terps are 20-6 under McBrien, who was the 2002 Peach Bowl MVP.

McBrien finished respectably this season in a conference filled with marquee passers. He was fifth in pass efficiency (137.1) and sixth in total offense (213.6 yards) per game. Yet, more was expected. Injuries along the offensive line and backfield forced Maryland to downscale the offense. McBrien played poorly in an 0-2 start and was inconsistent despite five straight wins.

Ironically, McBrien played better after he was knocked out of a 7-3 loss at Georgia Tech with a concussion. The game that cost Maryland a share of the ACC title. He returned more carefree and played “recklessly.” The standout practices were finally transferred to games as Maryland won its final four behind a rejuvenated McBrien.

McBrien led three scoring drives in the final minutes of the 26-24 victory over N.C. State on Nov.22 that sealed second place in the ACC. He threw 10 touchdowns and no interceptions over the final month with 349 yards and four scores against North Carolina.

Yet, McBrien remains low key. The former DeMatha Catholic passer seldom tips his moods, which often perplexed Friedgen.

“Scott doesn’t have a lot of emotion,” Friedgen said. “At first, that used to bother me. He used to throw a touchdown pass and you wouldn’t see any difference than when he throws an interception.”

McBrien’s pro possibilities seem remote. The 6-foot-1, 182-pound frame seems too small for the NFL and his arm strength would need improving. Maybe that’s why McBrien is relishing the final days of a career that stretches back to peewee football. Maybe that’s why he’s more concerned with team goals than any personal issues against West Virginia.

“It does seem like this year has been tough,” he said. “I think it’s all due to the expectations we had. If we had it last year or the year before it would have been a great year. We still have a chance to have a great season.”

Notes — Friedgen will coach in the Hula Bowl on Jan.17. Terps guard Lamar Bryant, safety Dennard Wilson and offensive tackle Eric Dumas will play. … Backup quarterback Orlando Evans is out after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee on Monday. … Offensive and defensive players switched jerseys in practice. Seniors were carried from the field in their final practice. The team changes hotels today and attends a banquet with only a brief walkthrough.

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