Gator is snap for Terps, 41-7

QB McBrien whips WVU, throwing 3 TDs to cap 2-year run with 21 wins

Rout puts UM in rare company

Only 4 other schools have 3 straight 10-win seasons

January 02, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - He could have said superb, and he could have said gracious. Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen could have used the word relieved to describe his senior quarterback yesterday, because clearly that was the case.

But after watching Scott McBrien throw for a career-high 381 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-7 Gator Bowl rout of West Virginia, Friedgen found an even better way to describe his senior quarterback. McBrien was, quite simply, divine.

"Scott," Friedgen said, "was heaven."

On any other day, such praise might have seemed effusive. But after McBrien, who also ran for a touchdown, carved up the Mountaineers with relative ease in front of 78,892 fans at Alltel Stadium, it was hard to argue with the coach.

"I think he's not really appreciated by other people around the country," Friedgen said. "Here's a guy that's won 21 games in two years. How many quarterbacks have done that? I don't know if he's the leading passer or the leading this or that, but I know [one] thing: I like the guy that wins football games, and that's what he does. He has a special place in my heart."

McBrien, who earned bowl game Most Valuable Player honors for the second consecutive year, played for West Virginia for two seasons before transferring to Maryland in 2001, and certainly didn't feel appreciated during his days in Morgantown. But since leaving, he's certainly earned the respect of the Mountaineers. He is 3-0 against his former team and has beaten West Virginia by a combined score of 123-31.

"It's amazing," said McBrien, who completed 21 of 33 passes. "It feels good. I couldn't have written a better [ending] to this storybook career for me. ... It was just one of those days. I felt like I was seeing the whole field."

The victory, Maryland's second postseason win in two years, also gave the Terps (10-3) their third straight season with 10 or more wins. That's something only Miami, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington State have accomplished. Maryland has won more games under Friedgen in the past three seasons than it did in the eight years combined before his arrival. In trying to build a nationally respected program, Friedgen certainly feels like he's made a good case.

"I really think we need to get a little more respect in the polls," said Friedgen, whose team went into the Gator Bowl ranked No. 23. "[No. 20 West Virginia] is a team that's really one play away from the BCS. ... They've beat Virgnia Tech, Pittsburgh and Boston College, and we've beat them twice. To me, we need to jump up pretty big if anybody has a conscience."

Whether that happens, Maryland certainly looked like a Top 10 team yesterday against West Virginia. The Terps outgained the Mountaineers 522-241 and jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a 31-yard touchdown from McBrien to Jafar Williams in the first quarter. By the time Steve Suter made it 17-0 with a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, West Virginia had fumbled twice, jumped offside twice, burned two timeouts and still hadn't picked up a first down.

"We got our tails kicked today," said Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez. "Maryland played well and made plays. We played hard, just not well in any phase."

The Mountaineers' game plan was to make McBrien beat them, and for the better part of four quarters, he made the strategy seem foolish. McBrien hit Williams for another score, a 22-yard touchdown, midway through the second quarter. On Maryland's first drive of the second half, McBrien made it 31-0 with a 2-yard touchdown run, capping a drive that was highlighted by an acrobatic 43-yard diving catch by Suter.

"There were a few balls I just threw up there in one-on-one coverage and had the receiver make a play," McBrien said. "All of them, Suter, Jafar, [Danny] Melendez, were doing that for me today."

West Virginia showed brief signs of life in the third quarter, driving 64 yards in six plays and scoring on a 15-yard run by Rasheed Marshall. But by then, it seemed half the 23,000 Mountaineers fans had left the stadium, well aware that a comeback was out of reach.

McBrien was so sharp that, even after his 50-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Fenner was called back because of a penalty, offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe called the same play on the next snap, and McBrien responded with a 44-yard completion to Melendez to the Mountaineers' 11-yard line.

"Ever since he got his bell rung in the Georgia Tech game, Scott's been lights out," Taaffe said. "I just wish we had another year with him. He can leave this stadium very proud. Quarterbacks are judged by winning and losing. For a two-year stretch, he's probably won as many games as any Maryland quarterback in the history of Maryland football. That's how he's measured."

McBrien closed out the scoring with his third touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter, hooking up with Jo Jo Walker on a 14-yard pass.

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