- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

The Maryland Terrapins have three more games to prove their worth to bowl officials.

Maryland (6-3, 3-2 ACC) plays host to Virginia (5-4, 3-3) on Thursday in a nationally televised game at Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins then play their final two games on the road at N.C. State and Wake Forest. All three are in contention for a bowl game.

Maryland actually still has a chance to tie Florida State (8-2, 6-1), a 26-10 loser to Clemson on Saturday, for the ACC title if the Seminoles lose again. However, Florida State has the tiebreakers — a higher average ranking in the two polls and a head-to-head win — over the Terps and would advance to the BCS bowl. Still, three wins likely would give the Terps a Gator Bowl bid as the ACC runners-up. Anything less than three wins probably will mean a minor bowl anywhere from Orlando, Fla., to Boise, Idaho.

Maryland’s postseason chances were expected to come down to the final weeks of the season. Of course, the Terps hoped to be at least 8-1 with a legitimate chance at an ACC title. However, close losses at Northern Illinois (20-13 in overtime) and Georgia Tech (7-3), along with a blowout defeat at Florida State (35-10), ended Maryland’s championship dreams and left the Terps unranked.

“That’s why I was so upset about the Georgia Tech loss,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I knew somebody was going to catch Florida State. … The talent level in the whole league [is so close that] it’s the intangibles that end up winning for you.”

The Terps appear ready to avenge last year’s 48-13 loss at Virginia, a loss that denied Maryland the ACC crown. The long bus ride back from Charlottesville hasn’t been forgotten. Friedgen admitted he recently watched the game film 10 times. The juice in the series appears back after Virginia drained the drama from the border clash with nine straight wins from 1992 through 2000.

“We’re trying to build the rivalry,” Friedgen said. “For years we didn’t have one.”

The Terps would have preferred “Senior Night” for its 23 seniors to be the season finale — after all, Maryland is 18-1 at Byrd under Friedgen. The departing class entered College Park when Ron Vanderlinden was the coach in another era of Maryland mediocrity. Friedgen helped reverse that slide.

“It would do my heart so much good to have one last time singing with the student section,” guard Lamar Bryant said of Friedgen’s tradition of singing the fight song after home victories.

But that would mean the Terps would have to get their first win of the year on national TV after two poor showings. Maryland’s 59-21 victory over North Carolina on Nov. 1 indicates an offensive revival. Scott McBrien passed for a career-best four touchdowns and ran for two more after he decided to play a “careless” game.

“I needed a blowout game,” he said. “I’ve had decent games in the past but nothing like that.”

McBrien’s 349 yards passing were the most by a Terp since 1995. He was especially sharp downfield for the first time this year. Friedgen said McBrien made only one mistake in 74 snaps.

“Scott talked about how the game has slowed down for him,” Friedgen said. “He was sharp, crisp. What I liked was he knew where he was going with the ball. If he makes these last three games his best, then we’ll play a fourth — [a bowl game].”

The Terps remain thin at tailback, though. Bruce Perry is doubtful with a sprained ankle. Sam Maldonado will have season-ending knee surgery tomorrow, so Josh Allen is the only experienced tailback. Mario Marrills and J.P. Humber will be available, and the Terps may use freshman Lance Ball.

Maryland also must overcome its second 12-day break in the last month. The Terps had four days off before they resumed workouts Friday. A rash of upsets leaguewide Saturday clearly shows the Terps their postseason path.

“We seem like we have momentum and then a bye,” McBrien said, “but we feel good about ourselves.”

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