Terps Will Bowl

In a nearly 30-minute session with reporters on Wednesday, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen gave a spirited review of the maligned season. This team was too good to be in such a desperate position, needing a win today to just become bowl eligible, he said. The players had been through too much—devastating injury after injury, numbing losses that would have caused most teams to go into a shell.

Yet, through it all, they didn't get down. This was a different team than any Friedgen has had at Maryland.

Take Jaimie Thomas, who elected to forego Thanksgiving at home and travel with the team to support his hurting neighbor on the line, Scott Burley. Or Andrew Crummey, who worked his way back from broken leg so that he could ensure the seniors didn't go out in Raleigh like the ones two years ago.

The Terps' perseverance culminated today in a start-to-finish domination of N.C. State, the 37-0 final historic in many ways: Maryland's (6-6, 3-5) first shutout in four years, first ACC shutout in 11 years, largest margin of victory in four years, N.C. State's (5-7, 3-5) first zero in 150 games.

But Friedgen won't remember this game for the numbers. As he stepped into his post-game news conference, even his visible elation couldn't hide the slight tremble in his voice when he started talking about what it meant to win today.

"I wanted them to win this game very badly for them because I've never been around a bunch of guys that have just hung in there no matter what the odds, no matter what things look like," he said.

Friedgen had lamented all through the season about how good this team could be if it played a full, consistent game. Today, at an unseasonably cold Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., would undoubtedly qualify as a full, consistent game.

It all started when Dave Philistin intercepted a Daniel Evans pass that was tipped by Kevin Barnes in the first quarter. He returned it to N.C. State's 40 yard line, and although the Terps managed only a field goal on the drive, the proverbial seal had been broken.

After Maryland forced a N.C. State three-and-out (one of six on the day), an unlikely source jumpstarted the Terps' rushing game: Quarterback Chris Turner.

Turner lined up in shotgun with Da'Rel Scott to his left, and the designed play was a quarterback run option that Turner usually gives up. Only this time, Turner didn't hand the ball to Scott—he took it himself, 41 yards up the left sideline.

"Just watching film all week we saw the defensive end bites down on the run," said Turner, whose 40 rushing yards complemented his 19-of-24, 206-yard performance through the air.

"I'm not freaking Michael Vick but anybody could get five yards. There was just a big gap and I took off and the rest is history."

That run, which got Maryland to N.C. State's 7 yard line, broke open the game, Friedgen said. Three plays later, Keon Lattimore scored from a yard out to put the Terps up 10-0.

On Maryland's next scoring drive, which started just 1:13 later, Turner hit Isaiah Williams for a 38-yard gain and Lance Ball scored untouched on a 15-yard run, his first of two touchdowns on the day.

With Crummey's return to the offensive line, the run game thrived. Four Maryland players rushed for over 30 yards, led by Scott's career-high 89 yards. All totaled, the Terps ran for 266 yards, and in the process, wore down the Wolfpack. Maryland held a nearly 16 minute advantage in time of possession.

Maryland's defense played a big role in that, too. It held N.C. State to just 10 rushing yards on 16 carries and 1-of-13 on third downs. Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh wanted to blitz more, Friedgen said, and the Terps regularly put pressure on Evans and his backup, Harrison Beck.

"We just played a lot looser today," Jeremy Navarre said. "We knew what the situation was, we really wanted to go to a bowl game, and we weren't real uptight."

Maryland led 24-0 at halftime, and for the first time this season, didn't let the opponent creep back in the second half.

The result of it all for the Terps will be a bowl game. Where is yet to be determined—Boise, San Francisco and Charlotte are all possibilities. Friedgen said he talked to representatives from Charlotte yesterday, and it appears that would be Maryland's ideal holiday destination.

For Turner, though, it doesn't really matter. After everything the team has been through, the opportunity to continue playing is good enough.

"I'm excited to go anywhere," he said. "We just wanted to be in this position."


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