- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Maryland still might have to beat Wake Forest on Saturday to secure a Gator Bowl bid.

Following Virginia Tech’s surprising 34-27 loss to Boston College on Saturday which muddied the Big East pairing, the Gator Bowl committee yesterday postponed its expected invitation to Maryland.

Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett indicated early Saturday — before Maryland’s 26-24 win over N.C. State — the Terrapins would receive a bid if they won. Yesterday he backtracked on that statement and said the decision now hinges on several scenarios that might delay the choices until Sunday. The committee meets today.

“Virginia Tech’s loss has thrown a crink into it,” Catlett said. “It puts us into a position of considering Miami, Pittsburgh and West Virginia and then there’s the BCS ranking that’s a tiebreaker [for the Big East representative].”

Maryland (8-3, 5-2 ACC) becomes the undisputed conference runner-up by beating Wake Forest (5-6, 3-4). A Terps loss and they are tied with Clemson (8-4, 5-3). The Gator Bowl can take a team with one more loss than the Terps. In fact, Maryland was passed over by the Gator Bowl for N.C. State last year even though the Terps beat the Wolfpack and finished ahead of them. A factor in last year’s decision was the Gator Bowl committed to Notre Dame early and the Fighting Irish already had beat the Terps 22-0 in both teams’ season opener.

If Maryland is not selected for the Jacksonville, Fla., bowl on New Year’s Day, it could head to the Tire Bowl on Dec.27. Peach Bowl officials said they would consider bringing back Maryland for the second straight year, but ACC sources said the Atlanta committee prefers N.C. State as its second choice. Maryland might be reluctant to accept the Tangerine Bowl on Dec.22 because it conflicts with final exams and graduation for eight players.

Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen was frustrated by the delay after Gator Bowl officials indicated to him that Maryland would earn a quick invite.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” he said. “We’re in a very good position for it. The fact is we have the chance for sole possession of second place and even if we don’t we’d be tied with Clemson, who we beat [21-7 on Oct. 4]. … I’m a little concerned about it. I think we’re deserving.”

One Gator Bowl obstacle was cleared when Maryland didn’t object to a possible pairing with West Virginia, despite having beaten the Mountaineers 34-7 on Sept.20. After three straight wins, the Terps lead the series 20-19-2. Friedgen said a rematch wouldn’t be troublesome.

“Not at all,” he said. “I think it would be a great matchup. It’s a rival for us. It’s something the fans would like to see. West Virginia got better as the season went on. We’re two entirely different teams at this point.”

The Big East Gator Bowl representative probably will be one of three teams — West Virginia (7-4, 5-1 Big East), which plays Temple (1-10, 0-6) on Saturday, Miami (9-2, 5-1) or Pittsburgh (8-3, 5-1), which meet on Saturday. The Miami/Pittsburgh winner advances to a BCS bowl as the Big East champ while the loser would be considered for the Gator along with the Mountaineers.

The Terps, who still haven’t gotten back into the polls despite winning eight of the last nine after an 0-2 start, have a chance to notch their third straight 10-win season under Friedgen.

“After all the adversity, we pulled together at the end of the season,” cornerback Curome Cox said. “It means a lot to stick together.”

Said quarterback Scott McBrien: “[What] separates us from other teams is we stuck together. Right now we’re together more than we’ve ever been since I’ve been here.”

Meanwhile, ACC officials couldn’t be reached about the postgame fracas between Maryland and N.C. State. Fans pelted the Terps with bottles while some players argued. Friedgen said he hadn’t heard from the conference about an inquiry but would talk to players after reviewing film.

“I don’t like some of the things I saw,” Friedgen said. “There was some taunting going on. It was a hard-fought game with emotions on both sides. We’re dealing with young kids, too. I’d like our players to act with class. Sometimes we see the tail end of something that doesn’t depict how it was. I worry about the perception.”

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