SHREVEPORT, OA. — SHREVEPORT, La. -- It is time to put away the Cajun food, the late-night dancing and the memories of the lingerie and bodybuilding party.
Either the University of Maryland (6-5) beats Louisiana Tech (8-3) tonight (8:12) in the Poulan-Weed Eater Independence Bowl, or the Terps lose and possibly get embarrassed nationally.
A partisan Louisiana Tech crowd of 40,000 is expected at 50,000-seat Independence Stadium for the game.
"It would look bad publicly if we got beat," said Maryland junior cornerback Scott Rosen. "We are an established program in Division I-A, and they have been in the division only two years. If you know anything about football, however, you know that Louisiana Tech has a good football team.
"But a lot of our players, including myself, are feeling the pressure because we are expected to win. It's nice to have been invited to the bowl, but it's time to take care of business."
Maryland senior linebacker Jack Bradford said: "Emotionally, it would be a big downer to lose a bowl game. We've talked all season about having a winning season. A loss would put us back to square one."
Rosen and Bradford echoed the sentiments of most of their teammates, but Maryland coach Joe Krivak, who was given a four-year guaranteed contract at the end of the regular season, said the Terps are not under any extra pressure.
He also said the university is not gambling by playing the Bulldogs.
"We have accomplished a lot of things this season, and there are a lot of positive aspects to build on," said Krivak, whose team is making its first bowl appearance since the Cherry Bowl in 1985. "I'm not saying we have reached the top yet, because there is still part of the mountain to climb.
"But we came here as a reward for our kids having a winning season with such a tough schedule. I like the progress that we're making, and, if we lose, I don't think it can take away from our framework. Hell, we haven't beat Penn State in 30 years, but we keep playing them. We're just excited to be here."
But a bowl win, coupled with the winning season and the upset of highly regarded Virginia, can do a lot for a team, especially recruiting.
"That's the name of the game," said Krivak.
Louisiana Tech is in a similar situation. A win would do wonders for the Bulldogs. Even a close loss would be beneficial.
But the Bulldogs apparently don't think of themselves as underdogs in a no-lose situation.
"I have never gone into a game thinking about losing or just staying close," said Louisiana Tech coach Joe Raymond Peace, who has resurrected the program in his three years at the school.
"We know what a win would do for our program over Maryland. But that's a distraction in itself. Our most important goal is the game itself, our players against their players, and we'll see what happens. We'll worry about the aftereffects later."
Most of Krivak's concerns have been with how to stop Louisiana Tech's nationally ranked offense, which averaged 449.8 yards total offense, 237.5 by passing. The Bulldogs have two excellent receivers in Bobby Slaughter and Eddie Brown, plus two quality runners in Mike Richardson and Jason Davis.
During the regular season, Maryland did not pressure passing teams such as Duke and Virginia, being content to sit back using five or six defensive backs.
In practice this week, Maryland worked on a number of blitzes and a lot of man-to-man coverage. The Terps also got a big boost when they learned nickel back and safety Johnny Vessels was playing after missing the second half of the final two regular-season games with heart palpitations.
"John gives us a lot of variations," said Rosen. "With Louisiana Tech, you can't sit back in one base defense, or they'll get to you."
Maryland has a size advantage of about 18 pounds on its interior offensive line over Louisiana Tech, which could be crucial, because Peace has talked about his lack of overall depth.
The Bulldogs also had problems defending the pass this year, allowing 164.6 yards per game. Maryland, with its one-back set, averaged 252.2 yards passing.
"It seems like it would be a high-scoring game, but I don't want to get into predictions," said Peace.
Louisiana Tech's defense was hurt dramatically Thursday afternoon, when Peace suspended starting freshman left end and second-leading tackler (108 tackles) Eric Shaw for not paying for damages he caused in an off-campus altercation last month.
Shaw, who is serving three years' probation for cocaine distribution in Florida, reportedly fired three shots from a .22-caliber handgun into the door of a Ruston apartment three days before Tech's final regular season game.
Shaw will be replaced by sophomore Steve Wilson.
"One thing about this team, we have been through a lot of adversity the last three years," said Peace. "We are a tight, tight bunch. Hopefully, we can carry on and use this incident in a positive and emotional manner."