In bowl picture, Terps have sights set on Gator


Friedgen: `We control our destiny' to get bid to New Year's Day game

College Football

November 19, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Right now, no one can say with any certainty which bowl game Maryland will end up playing in. But every Terps player can tell you the one he wants to play in.

At the moment, anything other than the Gator Bowl (Jan. 1) is going to feel like a disappointment for the Terps.

"I want to go to the Gator because we've never been there," said Maryland defensive lineman Kevin Eli. "I've heard that it's great. I know it's hot there [in Jacksonville, Fla.], and it's a better bowl than the Peach Bowl. It's not what we were expecting to shoot for coming into the season, but we'll take it."

Maryland (7-3, 4-2) sits alone in second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the Terps almost certainly will have to win their final two games to get the Gator Bowl bid. Otherwise, Maryland risks falling into a four-way tie for second place that could quickly deflate the Terps' postseason prospects.

Clemson (5-3 ACC), N.C. State (4-3) and Georgia Tech (4-3) trail Maryland in the standings.

"Really, we control our destiny right now," Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said.

In truth, Maryland also would be more than happy returning to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta for the second straight year. A bowl like the Tangerine (Dec. 22) or the Continental Tire (Dec. 27) would force the Terps to reschedule final exams for their players, and would offer a smaller payout and less prestige.

"We can win out and go to a really good bowl game, or we can lose two and maybe not go to a bowl game at all," said Maryland lineman Lamar Bryant. "It would be big to go to the Gator Bowl. A lot of people are watching on New Year's Day."

There is also the simple matter of pride involved.

Said cornerback Curome Cox: "We look at it like this: If we win two, you can look back on us and say we were a great team, but if we lose, we're just a good team. I think everybody wants to strive to be considered a great team."

Picking up the pace

Friedgen said he knew there was probably going to be some letdown from the players after the emotional 27-17 win over Virginia last week. He also said it still wasn't an excuse for the lack of energy he saw from the team during Monday's practice.

"We just weren't practicing with the same intensity and the same precision we did last week," Friedgen said.

Yesterday, however, things picked up a bit.

"It was better," Friedgen said. "We were maybe a little bit sluggish, but today it was better."

Bruce Perry practiced yesterday at full speed, an indication that he'll be able to play in Saturday's game against the Wolfpack despite missing last week's game with an ankle sprain. Sophomore Josh Allen rushed for 257 yards in Perry's absence, but Friedgen said Perry is "around 90 percent" healthy and will play.

"We play so many backs that it doesn't really matter [who starts]," Friedgen said. "I imagine they'll both play."

Wide receiver Latrez Harrison (sprained knee) also returned to practice yesterday, but linebacker Shawne Merriman (concussion) did not. Friedgen said Merriman, who leads the Terps with six sacks this season, had a magnetic resonance imaging test yesterday and is considered questionable for Saturday's game.

Et cetera

Maryland finished the season with an average home attendance of 51,236. It was the highest average in school history. ... Nick Novak's 45-yard field goal in the fourth quarter against Virginia gave him 302 points for his career, just six behind Maryland's all-time leader, Jess Atkinson. ... Scott McBrien needs just one more touchdown pass to grab sole possession of third place on Maryland's all-time list. With 26, he is tied with Neil O'Donnell. ... Friedgen will answer fans' questions during a live Web cast on his Web site tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

Next for Terps

Matchup: Maryland (7-3, 4-2) vs. N.C. State (7-4, 4-3)

Site: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 2, 7/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: N.C. State by 1

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