- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2004

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien was branded a traitor when he left West Virginia after one season. Now, he has proven its conqueror.

McBrien passed for a Terrapins bowl record 381 yards and three touchdowns yesterday to lead No.23 Maryland to a 41-7 Gator Bowl victory over No.20 West Virginia before 78,892 at Alltel Stadium.

The Gator Bowl MVP delivered a career best in yards while completing 21 of 33 passes. Since suffering a concussion against Georgia Tech on Oct.23, McBrien has thrown 13 touchdowns and no interceptions in leading Maryland to five straight wins.

“Scott’s graduated to the next level,” Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said. “He’s meant a lot to this program. He’s not appreciated around the country, [but] he’s won 21 games in two years. How many guys have done that?”

The senior finished 3-0 against his former team, completing 43 of 76 passes for 743 yards and five touchdowns, plus two rushing touchdowns.

McBrien dined with West Virginia friends after the game, saying he was glad the on-field rivalry no longer affects their relationships.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” McBrien said. “Now we can go back to hanging out and being friends instead of this enemy thing. I was talking to [West Virginia safety Brian King], and people said I shouldn’t be doing that. Now we can go back to being friends again.”

The win was Maryland’s first in January since 1952. After an 0-2 start to the season, the Terps took 10 of their remaining 11 games. For the third straight year, Maryland finished with at least 10 wins, another Maryland record. In three years the Terps are 31-8 under Friedgen.

“We were determined to prove to the nation we’re one of the elite teams in the country,” said receiver Jafar Williams, who scored two touchdowns.

Friedgen said Maryland should rise in the final national rankings after returning to the polls the last two weeks of the regular season. The Terps were ranked 15th during the preseason.

“All those teams that lost [yesterday] need to be behind us,” Friedgen said. “How many other 10-3 teams are there? I think we have a lot of respect among colleges. The problem is guys write us off once we lose a couple games. To me, it’s where you are at the end of the year.”

Maryland didn’t change its gameplan from its 34-7 victory against West Virginia on Sept.20, and the outcome this time wasn’t much different. The Terps outgained the Mountaineers 522 to 241 and had the ball nearly 18 minutes more than West Virginia.

“There really wasn’t anything to exploit,” running back Bruce Perry said. “We were just able to take advantage of the missed tackles and creases that were there.”

Said West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez: “We got our tails kicked today.”

Maryland capitalized on a combination of West Virginia mistakes for a 24-0 halftime lead. Kicker Nick Novak capped the opening drive with a 26-yard field goal. Williams’ 31-yard touchdown catch followed Maryland’s second straight fumble recovery.

Returner Steve Suter decided the game with a 76-yard touchdown punt return. It was the Terps’ first punt return touchdown in a bowl and the Gator Bowl’s first since 1971.

The Terps’ confidence flowed, while the Mountaineers were reeling. Maryland went 80 yards on its next drive using a mixture of long passes and short runs to keep West Virginia guessing. Williams scored his second touchdown after beating triple zone coverage.

Maryland continued its big-play passion with a 43-yard reception by Suter, who tipped the ball to himself while falling over a defender. McBrien’s 2-yard touchdown run made it 31-0 with 8:40 left in the third quarter.

West Virginia scored on quarterback Rasheed Marshall’s 15-yard run with 6:10 left in the third.

“I never felt safe with the lead, especially when they [scored to make it] 31-7,” Friedgen said. “I didn’t want us to relax. I gave it to the defense pretty good.”

Maryland countered with Novak’s 24-yard field goal and receiver Jo Jo Walker’s 14-yard touchdown catch with 6:42 remaining.

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