One Last Shot

The payout may be somewhat smaller, the media hype is mostly from smaller outlets and the gift bag is not quite as packed, but for at least one Mountaineer, Thursday's Gator Bowl means just as much as the BCS championship that will take place in New Orleans.

For senior safety Brian King, the chance for one final shot at the Terps is like a dream come true. For three straight seasons, the Damascus, Maryland native has been looking for a win over his home state's university. The Terps failed to put up a solid recruiting effort in King's senior season in high school, and he has been looking for revenge ever since.

"At the time I picked the school that was best for me," said King. "Maryland really didn't show me that much interest and West Virginia came after me pretty hard. It was really a no-brainer. I made the perfect decision for me and it has really been a blessing. I feel like I have something to prove every time I step on the field."

Unfortunately, each opportunity has ended negatively for West Virginia's all-time leader in pass breakups, and it seems as though some unusual circumstance has always made an impact on the final outcome. In 2002, the Blue & Gold came out flat and got behind early, erasing any opportunity King had to make an impact. In 2003, it was back spasms that kept BK on the sideline for most of the contest, and again the Mountaineers were blown away early.

"I feel like I haven't been able to give Maryland my best shot for the last two years," explained King. "Whether it was getting hurt early in the game or them getting up on us so quickly that there is nothing that we can do, it hasn't really been fun at all. This is a chance to erase all of that. They are 2-0 against me, but the one that everyone is going to remember is the last one.

"It's not tough for us to stay focused. We are playing a team that has embarrassed us, embarrassed our coaching staff and embarrassed our players. We have played Miami close and lost, we have beaten everybody else in the Big East, but we have never played with Maryland for four quarters (since Rodriguez arrived in 2001). We are upset about what we have shown, and the college football gods have blessed us by giving us another shot at Maryland."

That final chance will come on the biggest stage yet, the Toyota Gator Bowl on New Year's Day. It will be another year before Jacksonville will host the Super Bowl, but in King's mind, Thursday's clash is on much the same level.

"Growing up Brian always dreamed of playing in this game," said King's father, Steve. "This is a great way for him to end his career. He is really excited about this one, and he can't wait to get out on the field."

"This is bigger than the national championship for me," added Brian. "The Maryland game is different for me because I am a Maryland guy. I have a lot of friends on the team, and it is really important to me to come out with a win. I am just lucky to get another opportunity."

As if bragging rights in his home state were not enough, King's former roommate is the Terrapin signal caller. Scott McBrien, who transferred to College Park after Rich Rodriguez arrived in Morgantown, has been one of Maryland's biggest threats and he has gotten the best of his former teammates for two straight years.

"Playing a bowl game against your best friend doesn't really affect your friendship, you are still friends regardless," explained King. "But if I could hit him as hard as I can or if I could pick him, I would love it. He wouldn't feel bad for me if he threw overtop of me, so I wouldn't feel bad for him."

King would certainly not feel bad for Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen either. After the Terps won the season's first meeting, the pompous field general commented that perhaps Brian had made the wrong decision on where to go to school. Then in the Gator Bowl's final press conference "The Fridge" made reference to "Hill's" move to safety for WVU. A quick check of the West Virginia roster shows no players named Hill, and the only Mountaineer that made a move to safety was one Brian King. One would think that a coach preparing for a major bowl would know the name of his opponent's all-conference safety. But Friedgen's slip surely added a little more fuel to the fire. You can bet that by 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Friedgen will not only know his name, but he will not be able to get it out of his head. Ralph Friedgen, meet Brian King.

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