Finishing kick giving UM added bowl punch

MARYLAND NOTEBOOK

Just as with last season, Terps making impression by finishing with a bang

College Football

November 23, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

RALEIGH, N.C. - For the second straight season, Maryland is finishing the season in strong fashion, a big reason the Terps are in line to pick up a bid to the Gator Bowl today.

After beating North Carolina State last night, the Terps (8-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) are in position, with a victory next weekend over Wake Forest, to clinch second place in the ACC. A win over the Demon Deacons would mark the ninth in 10 games for the Terps, who started 0-2 with losses at Northern Illinois and Florida State.

This season is starting to mirror 2002, when the Terps began 1-2 with losses to Notre Dame and Florida State before a stretch of nine wins in 10 games earned them a bid in the Peach Bowl against Tennessee. The Terps went on to beat the Vols and finish 11-3.

"They're an awful good football team," said Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett of Maryland before last night's game, "and their fans have proven over the last couple years that they're willing to support the school. You always want people to win their way into your bowl game."

The Gator Bowl committee is meeting this morning to formally select Maryland. The Gator Bowl is held in Jacksonville, Fla., on Jan. 1.

"To play in three straight New Year's bowl games is a tremendous accomplishment," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, whose team played in the Orange Bowl two seasons ago on Jan. 2, 2002, and the Peach Bowl last season on New Year's Eve 2002. "That hasn't happened at Maryland in I don't know how long."

Maryland played four straight bowl games from 1982 to 1985, but none were on or after New Year's Day, when the more prestigious bowl games are generally played.

In back of his mind

Nick Novak admitted after his game-winning kick that he had flashbacks to Maryland's 2001 game with N.C. State, when it looked like a Terps comeback was going to fall short after Rich Parson fumbled on the 1-yard line after a 64-yard catch.

In that game, Maryland rallied to win, 23-19.

"[Parson] was one of the guys that came up to me after I missed [the extra point last night] and told me to stay focused."

Parson, who missed two games with an ankle sprain this season, had one of his best games last night, catching four passes for 114 yards and returning a punt 51 yards.

"I think it was definitely a little redemption for him tonight," said quarterback Scott McBrien.

Rivers' farewell

Emotions were running high at the start of the contest, thanks to a pre-game tribute by N.C. State to quarterback Philip Rivers, who had his jersey retired in his final home game. Rivers, whose 276 yards yesterday gave him 12,975 for his career, got a three-minute standing ovation by the 53,800 in attendance.

A montage of Rivers' highlights was shown on the scoreboard, and his wife, Tiffany, and his 1-year-old daughter, Halle, stood at midfield with him during the ceremony.

Yesterday, Rivers broke the NCAA record for most career starts (50), previously held by Syracuse's Donovan McNabb. His 12,975 passing yards are the second most in NCAA history, behind Louisiana Tech's Tim Rattay.

Et cetera

With two touchdown passes, McBrien passed Neil O'Donnell for sole possession of third on Maryland's all-time list with 28. Boomer Esiason is second (42); Scott Milanovich is first (49). ... For the first time this season, Maryland did not score first.

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