- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

Maryland’s renewed momentum must simmer once again. The Terrapins get their second bye in three weeks before facing visiting Virginia on Nov.13 in a nationally televised game Thursday night.

It’s not a welcomed break. Maryland’s stagnant offense finally awakened and its missing confidence suddenly overflowed after thrashing North Carolina 59-21 on Saturday. The Terps (6-3, 3-2 ACC), flashing a bravado that has been long missing, are hungry for their final three games against bowl contenders.

“[Beating North Carolina] increases the appetite,” receiver Steve Suter said. “We don’t want to go to a bowl just because we have six wins. I want to go to the best bowl we can.”

That’s probably the Gator Bowl for the ACC runner-up. Maryland remains alive in the conference title chase, but Florida State (8-1, 6-0) simply needs to win one of its final two ACC games to clinch the crown. The Terps could finish second by sweeping Virginia (5-4, 3-3), N.C. State (7-3, 4-2) and Wake Forest (5-4, 3-3), respectively. One or two losses probably sends Maryland to the Tire or Tangerine bowls while a 6-6 finish likely would mean the Humanitarian Bowl.

“They needed something like this to get their confidence,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I just wanted them to play with their hearts and pride in themselves. Do it for 60 minutes. Have fun. Don’t play the game like you have a 100-pound weight on your shoulders. It doesn’t look like you’re going to win the conference so go out and have fun and see what happens, and they did that.”

Maryland has the revenge factor against Virginia after losing 48-13 last year. The loss cost the Terps a share of their second straight ACC title. The home finale is expected to be a sellout.

“It’s now a rivalry,” Friedgen said. “I’m sure Virginia had a big circle on the calendar for us last year. The stadium is going to be electric. They are going to be jammed in seats all over this place. It’s what I envision football should be at Byrd Stadium.”

Maryland’s swagger returns just in time for the final postseason push. Quarterback Scott McBrien finally played like he practices. The receivers made highlight catches, the offensive line opened gaps and the running game resurfaced as the Terps gained 612 yards and scored on their first nine possessions.

It was the type of effort expected when the Terps opened the season ranked 15th, but was evident only briefly when the Terps soundly beat West Virginia (34-7) and Clemson (21-7) during the five-game winning streak. The No.5 scoring defense has been consistent aside from a 35-10 loss to Florida State, but it was the offense that held back the Terps. If both stay strong during the final weeks, Maryland still could earn its third straight 10-win plus season under Friedgen.

“As good as our defense is,” cornerback Domonique Foxworth said, “if the offense can continue to play like that I don’t think there’s too many teams in the country that can play with us.”

McBrien has long been the catalyst. The senior returned from a concussion against Georgia Tech to throw four touchdowns and run for two more against North Carolina. He finished 15 of 25 for a career-best 349 yards, the most yards by a Terps passer in eight years.

“Finally, it transferred over from the practice field,” McBrien said. “Our whole team transferred it from the practice field. I was very loose. I was just throwing the ball. I was just going out there and winging it. I felt comfortable who I was seeing and what I was reading.”

Said receiver Latrez Harrison: “I hope it was the breakout game for him. Once Scotty gets confidence it’s hard to stop him.”

Added Friedgen: “If Scott could play like that for the next three games I’d probably start growing hair.”

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