- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Maryland was invited to the Gator Bowl yesterday after surviving a dispute by members of the selection committee who wanted to consider Clemson instead.

During its two days of talks, the panel had said it might wait to see whether Maryland beat Wake Forest on Saturday before making a decision on the Terrapins (8-3, 5-2 ACC). In other words, some of the members would have pushed for Clemson (8-4, 5-3 ACC) if Maryland lost. However, bowl president Rick Catlett said the Terps were the choice once Maryland agreed to a rematch with West Virginia, a possible Big East opponent.

“Regardless of what happens on Saturday, they are still going to be in second place, and we just think they’d be the best team to have,” Catlett said.

The Big East opponent won’t be decided until after Saturday when Miami (9-2, 5-1) plays Pittsburgh (8-3, 5-1) for the conference crown and West Virginia (7-4, 5-1) meets Temple (1-10, 0-6). Miami, Pittsburgh or West Virginia could be picked for the Jan.1 Gator Bowl.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said he won’t review film on possible opponents this week because the team is readying for Wake Forest. Maryland beat West Virginia 34-7 on Sept.20.

“West Virginia has always been a great rivalry,” Friedgen said. “There will be a tremendous amount of interest.”

Maryland will make its fourth Gator Bowl appearance but the first since 1975, when Friedgen sat in the stands on a rainy afternoon as an assistant coach at The Citadel. The Terps will play in their third straight bowl under Friedgen.

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said the Terps didn’t agree to sell more than the 12,750 ticket minimum. However, Maryland sold 15,000 tickets to the Peach Bowl last year and 23,000 for the 2001 Orange Bowl. Orders started pouring in even before the official mid-afternoon announcement.

“[The minimum is] not a problem,” Yow said. “We’ll probably be in need of more. It’s hectic but in all the right ways.”

Yow said the ticket dropoff last season was partly because Maryland played in two Final Fours, the Orange Bowl and the Kickoff Classic in a two-year span.

“We had drained our fans dry,” she said. “There is an end to how much discernable spending [Terps fans have]. This is a better time for us.”

Meanwhile, kicker Nick Novak and returner Steve Suter were named All-ACC first-team for the second straight year along with defensive tackle Randy Starks and guard C.J. Brooks. Friedgen was disappointed more Terps weren’t named. Eight were first-teamers last year, and seven were in 2001.

“I hoped to get a couple other kids, but I can understand why they chose who they did,” he said.

Suter was only fifth among ACC punt returners (7.8 yards), but few opposing teams tested him. However, he scored a 75-yard touchdown against The Citadel. He also averaged 23.8 yards on kickoff returns.

“It was more surprising this season,” Suter said. “I didn’t have the stats from last year.”

Novak delivered his third career game-winning kick in the 26-24 victory over N.C. State on Saturday to become Maryland’s career leading scorer with 310 points. He has converted 22 of 27 field goals this season.

“I’m shocked as well,” Novak said. “I guess I’ve gained the reputation of being a clutch kicker who comes through.”

Brooks earned his first All-ACC honor despite playing most of the season with hand, shoulder and toe injuries.

“I played more solid last year,” he said. “It was a struggle because of the injuries to keep going.”

Starks overcame persistent double-teaming to post 6 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and 68 tackles. Starks also was named ACC defensive lineman of the week.

“People expect a lot out of me to be dominant and make big plays,” he said.

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