Time to shine

In Emerald Bowl, healthy Terps seeking winning year, to `show how good we are'

December 28, 2007|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

SAN FRANCISCO -- After a season nearly derailed by injuries and punctuated by victories over a pair of top 10 teams, the Maryland Terrapins came here last week to prepare for the Emerald Bowl against Oregon State with chips on their shoulders.

Tonight at AT&T Park, Maryland hopes to cash in those chips.

"We had high expectations coming into the season, and we haven't met those expectations," senior offensive guard Andrew Crummey said earlier this week. "We had a lot of adversity. This is a chance to show how good we are when we're healthy."

Though they are just five-point underdogs, the Terps have been picked by nearly every national prognosticator to lose a bowl game for the first time under Ralph Friedgen since being routed by Florida in the Orange Bowl that followed the 2001 season, Friedgen's first bowl as head coach at his alma mater.

Despite blowout victories in his team's past three bowl trips by a collective score of 95-17, Friedgen said he wasn't surprised the Terps are underdogs once again.

"We weren't favored against Tennessee [in the 2002 Peach Bowl], and we were underdogs to West Virginia [in the 2004 Gator Bowl] after beating them by 30-something points [actually by 34-7 during the regular season]," Friedgen said. "Our guys got motivated because we were underdogs in that game. We're underdogs every game."

Friedgen recalled what happened before last season's Champs Sports Bowl against Purdue in Orlando, Fla., won by Maryland, 24-7.

"Some guy wrote in the paper that the last time a Big Ten team played an ACC team, they beat them 70-3 or something," Friedgen said. "We haven't played a Pac-10 team. There's nothing I can use for that. I think our team knows that we're a better team when we play than our record [shows]. The problem is the consistency."

The inconsistencies have popped up at practice this week, where Chris Turner was intercepted twice in a two-minute drill during Maryland's final workout Wednesday in Oakland.

That's not a good sign when tonight's opponent will be an 8-4 team with an opportunistic defense that has won six of its past seven games, including road victories over then-No. 2 California on Oct. 13 and archrival Oregon on Dec. 1. The Beavers are ranked second in the country against the run.

"It's not about records when you get to this point," said Oregon State coach Mike Riley, who has not lost in three bowl games as a head coach. "I know they have gone through a lot of changes due to injury. We've had some significant changes to our team. I appreciate their perseverance. I see a really good team that could have been 8-4 or 9-3 very easily."

A victory would give the Terps their fifth winning season in Friedgen's seven years and could give Maryland some momentum going into next year. A defeat would mean the third losing season in the past four years and continue to raise questions about the direction of the program.

"If you go 6-7, that's a losing season, everything you basically worked for is down the drain," senior running back Keon Lattimore said. "Just to be able to get this last one, to be the champion of some type of bowl, you go out a winner. It's very important for the morale of the team. For the younger guys, I think it's important for them to win the first bowl game they've ever been to."

Said Crummey: "You don't want to have a losing season. When they look at the record books, it doesn't say, `This, this and this happened.' Five years from now, nobody's going to say they had a bunch of injuries. The numbers speak for themselves. A win would be huge for us; seven wins is not too bad."

Friedgen looks at the transportation factor, specifically the plane ride home.

"It's a lot shorter when you win," he said.

don.markus@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.