Respect-hungry Terrapins feast on sweet victory over Volunteers

Decisive win marks first Maryland success in bowl game in 17 years

Peach Bowl

Maryland 30, Tennessee 3

January 01, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - Two years ago, University of Maryland athletic director Deborah Yow looked at football coach Ralph Friedgen and swore she saw a winner.

Last night, the rest of the country saw exactly what she was talking about.

For the first time in 17 years, Maryland's football team earned a postseason victory, trouncing Tennessee 30-3 to win the Peach Bowl in front of 68,330 fans at the Georgia Dome.

"I'm so proud of the way our kids played and the adversity they fought through," said Friedgen. "It's just been a great year. To win 11 games after being 1-2 and everybody getting down on you really shows the character of this football team.

"It will be a team that I'll probably remember the rest of my life."

Maryland's victory, one of the biggest in school history, represents a new high for Friedgen, who in just two years has turned a program mired in years of mediocrity into a winner. Maryland won the Atlantic Coast Conference title last year, going 10-2 in its first year under Friedgen and earning a berth in the Orange Bowl. The Terps finished this season with an 11-3 record, marking the first time in school history the football team won at least 10 games in consecutive seasons.

"I think there is an overwhelming sense of pride in what he's accomplished," Yow said. "I think it really shows that we're building a foundation at Maryland for something special. But what I keep telling people is: Stay tuned. We're just getting started."

The game, which was supposed to feature two evenly matched teams, turned into a second-half waltz for Maryland, thanks to two rushing touchdowns by quarterback Scott McBrien and an interception return for a touchdown by defensive back Curome Cox. It was the biggest margin of victory in the Peach Bowl since 1972.

The Georgia Dome was especially good to Maryland in 2002. Last spring, the Terps basketball team won its first national championship in the same building.

The Volunteers (8-5), considered by many to be a contender for the national championship at the start of the season, had little success moving the ball against Maryland's defense, led by two-time All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson of Aberdeen, who was playing the final game of his career.

15,000 make trip

"It's a great feeling for the team and for the fans that came down and traveled with us," said Henderson, who was named the game's defensive Most Valuable Player after getting 12 tackles, including two sacks. "For them to get to go back home with a smile on their face and with their heads held high is a great feeling."

About 15,000 Maryland fans made the trip to Atlanta, and although they were considerably outnumbered by Tennessee fans, they had considerably more to cheer about.

"When we went to Maryland, the team was sorry, but we went to games anyway," said Josh Rivers, a 1997 graduate of Maryland who made the trip with friends. "When they hired coach Friedgen, we said, `OK, this is it, he's going to be the one to turn the program around.' But we also said the same thing about [former coach] Ron Vanderlinden, so what did we know?"

"This officially puts the Mark Duffner era to bed," said Josh Caplan of Pikesville, referring to Maryland's coach from 1992-96, who went 20-35. "I've been following the team for a long time, and this is just awesome."

Yow said she always knew Friedgen, a 1970 graduate of Maryland and an offensive lineman for the Terps from 1966-68, was the right man for the job.

Praise for Friedgen

"I just loved his passion and love for Maryland," Yow said. "He was an All-ACC academic pick when he played here, and that was very important to me too. ...

"I think a big part of what I'm proud of is how we're regarded as an academic institution. Right now we have 67 programs ranked in their respective Top 25 in the country, and we're starting to get five-star athletes who are tremendous students as well."

With Maryland contributing its $2 million payout from the Peach Bowl, the ACC will receive a total of about $19.8 million from the seven conference teams in this season's bowls. The money is divided equally among the nine schools.

Maryland's victory was the culmination of a week of festivities, including a the Peach Bowl Parade yesterday, which Maryland sophomores Jenni Zobler, Toni-Marie Calabrese and Michele Sternberger drove 10 hours Monday from New Jersey to attend.

"It was a lot of fun, but we have to get on (University president C.D. Dan) Mote because he wasn't there," Sternberger said. "I mean, you can't be in a bowl game and not attend the parade?"

Yow said this victory is only the first step. "It's only the second year," Yow said. "Recruiting is going extremely well. I truly believe we're going to have the best recruiting class in the history of the football program this year. It doesn't stop here."

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