- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 1, 2003

ATLANTA Any doubts that Maryland could beat one of college football's perennial powers were answered last night and emphatically.

After stumbling the last two years against the likes of Florida, Florida State and Notre Dame, the Terrapins finally knocked off an elite program with a 30-3 thrashing of Tennessee in the Peach Bowl before 68,330 at the Georgia Dome.

"This is a great win for Maryland," Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I'm hoping this will push us to the next level We were on a stage playing a traditional power on national television. It has to mean something."

Maryland ends its season with an 11-3 record, matching the 1976 squad's record for victories in a season. The Terps won 10 of their final 11 games and took another step toward college football's elite with the rout of the Volunteers for their first postseason win since the 1985 Cherry Bowl.

Tennessee, meanwhile, completed a sobering 8-5 season, the program's worst since producing a 5-6 record in 1988. It was also the first time the Vols played before New Year's Day in eight seasons.

However, the Volunteers were still a program that ranked second all-time in bowl appearances with 42 and were just four years removed from a national championship, making them one of the sport's behemoths.

For Maryland, a program that had been humbled 56-23 in the Orange Bowl by Florida a season ago and then trounced by Notre Dame 22-0 and Florida State 37-10 earlier this season, getting such a marquee win was another step for Friedgen in establishing a national identity.

The game also provided a fitting departure for All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson. The Butkus Award winner and two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year had 12 tackles and forced a fumble early in the second half that quashed a Tennessee drive inside the Terps' 20.

"I felt like we won the national championship," Henderson said of his final college game.

Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien had perhaps his best game of the season, running for two touchdowns, including a 1-yard run on a naked bootleg on Maryland's first possession. Terp cornerback Curome Cox returned an interception for a 54-yard touchdown, and Nick Novak made all three of his field goals tries including two from beyond 40 yards.

The Terps followed Henderson's forced fumble with a 67-yard drive to set up a Novak 44-yard field goal. It put Maryland ahead 20-3 with 6:46 left in the third quarter, prompting about 15,000 Terps' fans behind one end zone to begin their New Year's celebration early.

Henderson had what over the last three seasons has become a routine performance for him, including four tackles for losses, two sacks and a pass deflection. His presence helped Maryland limit the Vols to 45 yards rushing and overcame the loss of nose tackle William Shime, who was suspended early this week and defensive tackle Randy Starks, who was lost with a groin injury on the second play of the game. The Terps survived with a patchwork line of seldom-used junior Tosin Abari, junior Landon Jones and freshman walk-on Justin Duffie.

"When Randy went down, I really said some prayers and the good lord answered," Friedgen said. "Those three guys played their guts out."

Tennessee got the momentum to start its ill-fated drive after the Vols' Rashad Baker forced a Latrez Harrison fumble, which was returned 19 yards by Mark Jones to Maryland's 41.

It was a stark contrast as the teams headed toward their locker rooms at halftime. Maryland players ran off the field pumping their helmets in the air enthusiastically, while the Volunteers quietly shuffled off the field. The Terps had taken a 14-point lead on Novak's 48-yard field goal 47 seconds left, a kick set up by McBrien's 16-yard scramble moments earlier.

However, it seemed Tennessee would take momentum into intermission on the ensuing drive. A 44-yard pass from Casey Clausen to Tony Brown got the Vols tothe Terps' 29. After an incompletion, Durrand Roundtree sacked Clausen for a 5-yard loss. Two plays later, Alex Walls missed a 41-yard field goal try to the left.

Walls had cut the Terps' lead to 14-3 on a 38-yard field goal with 4:46 remaining after Maryland stifled a Volunteer drive inside the 20.

Maryland had gone ahead 14-0 on Cox's 54-yard interception return with 11:32 left in the half. Clausen tossed up a short floater under pressure from Henderson into Cox's hands. The cornerback then cut to his right and dodged several Volunteers before dashing down the sideline.

The Terps took the lead on its first possession when a touchdown run by McBrien from inside the 1. The quarterback took naked bootleg to the left side and went untouched over the goal line, completing a 13-play, 67-yard drive that took 7:37. It was an impressive series for McBrien, who kept the drive alive on third-and-four at Maryland's 44 by avoiding the rush and scrambling for a 7-yard gain.

Tennessee hurt themselves with a roughing the passer penalty and a personal foul on successive plays that gave Maryland a first down the Volunteers' 5. After 270-pound fullback James Lynch couldn't convert up the middle from the one, the Terps gambled on fourth down and McBrien cashed in.

Maryland set the tone defensively on the first drive. Safety Dennard Wilson sacked Clausen for a 9-yard loss on the first play and Starks dropped Cedric Houston for 2-yard loss on the play he got injured.

The Terps built the lead to 27-3 on a six-yard run from McBrien. Novak's 25-yard completed the scoring.

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