- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Maryland will face West Virginia in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day in a rematch of a game the Terrapins won earlier this season.

Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett yesterday said inviting the Mountaineers is a mere formality pending the BCS’ release of West Virginia from consideration for its bowls. Since West Virginia (7-4, 5-1 Big East) can’t catch either Miami (9-2, 5-1) or Pittsburgh (8-3, 5-1) in the BCS rankings, Catlett said West Virginia will be chosen by Dec.7.

Maryland leads the series 20-19-2 after beating the Mountaineers 34-7 on Sept.20 for the third straight year. Coach Ralph Friedgen said the border rivalry has been intense since he played for Maryland in 1966 and ‘68.

“We could play 10 times a year, and it would be a good game,” he said. “I know how both states will get involved in this game. We’ll play next year, and it will be the same.”

More than 30,000 tickets already have been sold in Jacksonville. Both schools also must sell 12,750. Catlett said the only lower bowl tickets remaining in the 73,000-seat Alltel Stadium are in Maryland’s allotment.

The Terps (8-3, 5-2 ACC) were relieved to get the bid after some uncertainty arose Sunday when Clemson was mentioned by the Gator Bowl committee. It is Maryland’s third straight bowl game after playing in the Orange and Peach.

“We thought we would stick with the fruits,” running back Bruce Perry said, “but we’re on to the reptiles.”

Friedgen is concerned Maryland might overlook Wake Forest (5-6, 3-4) in the season finale Saturday. The Demon Deacons, coming off a two-week layoff, must win to become bowl eligible. “We’ve come too far to let this one get away,” Friedgen said.


Friedgen said linebacker Leroy Ambush’s fumble-causing tackle on N.C. State running back T.A. McLendon that led to the Terps’ game-winning field goal “will go down in the annals of Maryland football as one of the great plays.” No wonder there were 20 messages on the senior’s cell phone after the 26-24 victory.

“It was a little overwhelming but exciting at the same time,” Ambush said. “I had no clue the ball came out. My intention was to get him on the ground. I saw everybody jump around and figured something good happened. When you hit somebody clean like that you don’t feel anything. It felt kind of numb, but I was so pumped with adrenalin I could hardly speak.”

Ambush has watched the replay at least 25 times, partly to confirm he really forced the turnover that helped Maryland rally from a 24-10 deficit in the final six minutes.

“I’ve had hits before but never one to change the game,” he said. “It hasn’t sunk in, and I watch it like, ‘Is that really me out there?’”

Perry said numbing hits like Ambush’s are hard to withstand.

“You get hit all the time,” he said, “but when you get hit that hard it takes away some of your confidence.”

Extra points

Running back Josh Allen (sprained ankle), receiver Latrez Harrison (strained groin) and tight end Jeff Dugan (concussion) are probable for Saturday’s game. … Friedgen excused out-of-state players from practice tomorrow, but locals will still work out lightly. … Friedgen plans to make 17 recruiting visits by Dec.26 before leaving for the bowl game.

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