- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2003

A full house. National TV. Senior Night. Bowl bids.

It might be a relatively low-key rivalry, but there will be plenty of drama tonight at Byrd Stadium.

Virginia (5-4, 3-3 ACC) meets Maryland (6-3, 3-2) in a late-season showdown that will knock the loser from one of the conference’s leading bowls. Maryland still can tie Florida State (8-2, 6-1) as ACC co-champions, though the Seminoles have the tiebreaking edge for the BCS bowl based on their higher BCS ranking and 35-10 victory over the Terrapins. Virginia hopes to edge Maryland for the Gator Bowl bid as ACC runner-up.

Also at stake are bragging rights for recruiting, national reputation for the polls and some juice among a growing fan feud based on the outcome. Who needs the Tydings Trophy that was supposed to be given to the winner after a 58-year absence only to be quashed by Virginia officials claiming its rivalry with Virginia Tech was paramount?

“We’re very competitive with Virginia,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I’d be kidding if I didn’t say this wasn’t an important game for both teams. I don’t think it’s the end-all, but there’s a lot of kids looking to see how we play and how Virginia plays. … It’s a potential rivalry in every sport we play. They’re border states. We compete for students, not just athletes.”

The Terps aren’t short on motivation. Players bitterly remember Virginia’s 48-13 victory last year that cost Maryland the ACC title. Maryland’s victory in 2001, Friedgen’s first season, ended Virginia’s nine-year winning streak over the Terps.

“You want to knock them off so they don’t knock you off,” receiver Steve Suter said.

It’s also Senior Night for 23 Terps who will be sent off by hundreds of fans at Terp Alley near the stadium nearly three hours before kickoff. Although Maryland still must play at N.C. State and Wake Forest, this is the home finale before a record sixth straight 50,000-plus crowd at Byrd.

The Terps have been revived by a week off following a 59-21 victory over North Carolina on Nov.1. Friedgen conceded afterward that a loss probably would have sent Maryland reeling to a 6-6 finish. Instead, the Terps have regained their swagger.

“Considering the losses we had, there’s still a chance to feel better about ourselves,” Suter said.

Said Friedgen: “The way the ACC is playing out, anybody could end up anywhere. … We could have a share of the ACC championship or we could end up 6-6 and not going anywhere. [Our players have] a second chance. Everything they had goals for are still there with three games remaining. I was hoping we’d peak going into these last three games.”

However, Friedgen regularly says his third season has been the most perplexing. The Terps won five straight after an 0-2 start but rarely have met expectations that surfaced when they were No.15 in preseason. Friedgen has tried everything from individual and team meetings to head butting players before the game to playing music during practices to motivate players. Maryland has played well in victories over West Virginia, Clemson and North Carolina but was lifeless in losses at Northern Illinois and Georgia Tech.

“I have a hard time judging my kids,” Friedgen said. “I think there’s an intensity in our practices. They feel good after the way we played the last time out. I still think we have talent. It’s my job to get them to play loose and relaxed. When we get all uptight and worry about making mistakes we don’t play as well as we’re capable of playing.”

Quarterback Scott McBrien said he finally played “careless” against North Carolina when he threw for a career-best four touchdowns and ran for two more. However, he’s still bothered by a preseason groin injury. Indeed, injuries have plagued the offense with senior running back Bruce Perry likely to miss his home finale with a sprained ankle. Receiver Derrick Fenner will miss the rest of the season after undergoing an appendectomy.

Maryland’s defense will face its toughest quarterback this season. The Terps lead the ACC in total and pass defense and are sixth nationally in scoring, but Cavaliers quarterback Matt Schaub’s quick release will challenge Maryland’s veteran secondary.

“You have to stop the run early and then make them go to the passing to be more one-dimensional,” defensive tackle C.J. Feldheim said. “Schaub is very accurate, but we have to cover everything and get some pressure on him.”

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