- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

Surviving the pregame introduction proved Maryland’s toughest challenge yesterday. Coach Ralph Friedgen head-butted and chest-thumped the Terrapins so hard in the tunnel that the game was nearly a relief.

“I got into it pretty good,” Friedgen said. “I felt like I was ready to play. I was more demonstrative. If that’s what I have to do to get this team going, then I’ll become the biggest cheerleader you ever saw. … I wanted this game bad.”

And he got it in a big way as Maryland routed North Carolina 59-21 before 51,195 at Byrd Stadium to become bowl eligible with its sixth victory. Trailing 14-6 after the first period, the Terps erupted for an ACC-record 39 second-quarter points. Maryland scored on all eight of its first-half possessions.

Quarterback Scott McBrien threw four touchdowns and ran for two more. The Terps averaged 7.9 yards a snap. Maryland was so dominating its band played the school victory song with 12 minutes left for the few fans remaining.

“Now [opponents] have to watch film a little more closely because when we’re playing the way we can, we’re tough to stop,” receiver Steve Suter said.

Maryland (6-3, 3-2 ACC) will make the postseason for the third straight year. The Terps can include their victory over The Citadel because wins vs. Division I-AA teams may be used once every three years. However, that victory won’t be needed if Maryland beats Virginia, N.C. State or Wake Forest.

All four ACC teams are bowl contenders, so Maryland’s win over North Carolina (1-8, 0-5) reduces some of the Terps’ stress. Maryland is now simply playing for a more lucrative bowl.

“I was worried about this game very, very much,” said Friedgen, who set an ACC record with 27 wins in his first three seasons. “I thought our team was at a very fragile state. If we had lost this game, I don’t know if we would have won another one the rest of this year.

“Now they feel like they have their confidence back. They’re going to need it these next three games.”

The homecoming crowd seemed too exhausted to cheer at intermission when the 1953 national championship team was honored. Maryland discovered its downfield passing game and inside running plays regularly for the first time this season in a 66-point half that required nearly two hours. Even Maryland’s 61-0 victory over The Citadel wasn’t as dominating.

“Things went from bad to worse to worst,” North Carolina coach John Bunting said. “What’s a worse word than worst? How about disaster?”

The only downside for Maryland was injuries to running backs Sammy Maldonado (sprained left knee) and Bruce Perry (sprained left ankle) that left Josh Allen as the only experienced runner. Maldonado could miss the rest of the season, but Perry might return against Virginia on Nov.13. The Terps are idle next weekend.

North Carolina’s defense already was the ACC’s worst in all categories, but Maryland’s offense recovered from recent woes with amazing ease to rack up 612 yards. McBrien finished 15 of 25 for a career-best 349 yards, the most by a Terps passer since Scott Milanovich’s 380 against Florida State in 1995.

McBrien finally translated strong workouts into a stellar game although he didn’t practice until Wednesday after suffering a concussion against Georgia Tech on Oct.23.

“Maybe I should have a concussion every week,” McBrien said jokingly. “This might sound kind of weird, but I was kinda out there playing careless. I wasn’t worried about anything. I was just letting it rip. I wasn’t hesitating and I was being decisive, and whenever I’m decisive good things will happen.”

Equally surprising was the Terps effectively running inside for the first time in six games. The offensive line seemed refreshed after a nine-day break as Maryland gained 252 yards on the ground. Perry gained a season-high 96 on 17 carries before being hurt in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s No.5 scoring defense permitted touchdowns on North Carolina’s opening two drives before blanking the Tar Heels the rest of the game aside from a special teams touchdown. North Carolina led 21-14 with 9:13 left in the second quarter on running back Chad Scott’s 52-yard reception.

“It was a little scary to not look good,” Maryland cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. “We felt we would eventually come around.”

Said Friedgen: “I could see this game to be a 51-48 deal.”

The Terps permitted a 96-yard touchdown on Mike Mason’s kickoff return. Oddly, Maryland neutralized North Carolina’s Michael Waddell, the nation’s leading kick returner (31.9 yards). Terps kicker Nick Novak’s deep kicks forced nine touchbacks as Waddell regularly threw the ball out of the end zone in frustration.

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