Maryland lines up for bowl leftovers

ACC championship to dictate lineup

Terps-Navy possible

November 27, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun Reporter

COLLEGE PARK -- Before he left Byrd Stadium on Saturday night, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen met with bowl representatives to discuss the remaining postseason possibilities after a 38-24 loss to Wake Forest eliminated the Terps from the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game and a shot at the Orange Bowl.

It was the first such meeting since 2003, but that accomplishment was tempered by the disappointment that Maryland had just squandered a chance at so much more. Friedgen headed home resigned to the fact that the Terps most likely will play their last game of the season on Dec. 29 or Dec. 30 - probably in the Music City Bowl, the Champs Sports Bowl, or against Navy in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

"I'm disappointed we didn't play better in such a game that could really have added a lot of significance to the season," he said yesterday. "We really had a chance to be something special.

"It is what it is," he said. "Like everything else you have to move on. Now we have to get ready to play in the bowl game and hopefully get our ninth win there."

A rematch with Navy wouldn't make it easy, as the run-oriented Midshipmen would be pitted against a defensive unit that gave up nearly 300 rushing yards Saturday when the Atlantic Division title was on the line. Maryland defeated Navy, 23-20, last year, but there are no plans for the neighboring programs to meet again during the regular season.

"I guess I feel OK about it," Friedgen said, noting he'd like to add Navy to the schedule again. "They've got a good football team. We'll be challenged greatly."

At the latest, bowl invitations will be extended Sunday, a day after the ACC title game has been played. A lot of it hinges on whom the Champs Sports Bowl selects, and that could depend on who loses the ACC championship game - and by how much.

If Georgia Tech wins to advance to the Orange Bowl, a likely scenario would be Virginia Tech to the Chick-fil-A Bowl and Clemson to the Gator Bowl. That would leave Champs Sports, Music City and Meineke Car Care to choose among Boston College, Wake Forest and Maryland. And if Georgia Tech loses, it's not inconceivable for the Yellow Jackets to wind up at home in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, although most observers predict that to be Virginia Tech's destination.

Nothing is certain, other than that bowl representatives in Charlotte, N.C., would be thrilled about hosting Maryland and Navy.

The Mids, who finish their regular season Saturday against Army, clinched a berth in the Meineke Car Care Bowl earlier this month.

"There are several teams that would do well here, but I think this is one [matchup] that would really shine," said Will Webb, executive director of the Meineke Car Care Bowl. "For a bowl game that's not a championship game, it's a great regional rivalry that really hasn't been much [of] a rivalry the past few years in football. I just think there's a lot of magic that could come out of this."

Friedgen said that once he knows which bowl the Terps are headed to, he'll give his players a week off to study and heal, and to simply take a break from football before resuming practice the next week.

He also said he's worried about a conflict with the university's exam schedule and practice opportunities.

"I really don't want to practice during exams," he said. "It leaves me very little time before a game to be prepared. Obviously if you're going to have to play somebody like Navy, it's going to take some time to prepare for that type of offense."

Especially considering the 421 yards of total offense Maryland allowed against Wake Forest. The Terps rank 102nd out of 119 Division I-A teams in rushing defense, allowing 174.8 yards per game.

"When we scored, when Isaiah [Williams] made the big catch and we scored, I was thinking, `One stop and we're right back in this,'" said receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, referring to a fourth-quarter touchdown that cut Wake Forest's lead to 31-24. "They didn't make a stop. That's football. It is what it is. Those guys are on scholarship, too."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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