Terrapins, Humanitarian Bowl Try to Make the Best of Their Unlikely Pairing

Coach Ralph Friedgen says the Terrapins are
Coach Ralph Friedgen says the Terrapins are "lucky we are going to a bowl" after losing their last two to finish 7-5. (By Rob Carr -- Associated Press)
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By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 8, 2008

The Maryland football program wanted to play in a more prominent bowl game. The Humanitarian Bowl wanted a team with more national sizzle. Neither got its wish.

After both parties exhausted all other possibilities, a second-tier bowl and a team coming off a middling season agreed yesterday to accept one another even though neither was the other's first choice. Maryland accepted an invitation to travel 2,400 miles to play Nevada in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, on Dec. 30.

Three weeks after having ACC title aspirations, the Terrapins (7-5, 4-4 ACC) agreed to conclude the season on a blue field with a football game that has little widespread appeal. The matchup is also a letdown for Humanitarian Bowl officials, who sought to pair Boise State against Ball State in what they hoped would be a rare battle of unbeatens.

Ball State's decision to decline the invitation cleared Maryland's path to the Humanitarian Bowl, which had the eighth selection among the ACC's 10 bowl eligible teams. Nevada (7-5, 5-3 WAC) earned the berth after undefeated Boise State, the Western Athletic Conference champion, opted for a more compelling matchup against Texas Christian in San Diego's Poinsettia Bowl.

Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said his team is excited about the bowl opportunity and acknowledged, "Losing our last two games, we are lucky we are going to a bowl."

For weeks, Maryland officials had explored possibilities of playing elsewhere and had hoped for a bowl bid closer to College Park.

Maryland officials insisted the Terrapins could not play Navy in the EagleBank Bowl at RFK Stadium because the Dec. 20 game conflicted with final exams. Officials seriously revisited the possibility Tuesday, only to conclude that at least a few dozen players had exam conflicts. Instead, Wake Forest will represent the ACC against the Midshipmen.

Even when playing in the Humanitarian Bowl appeared inevitable, officials clung to hope of playing in Charlotte's Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 27 against West Virginia. They felt the matchup would have generated significant local interest.

But Virginia Tech's victory in the ACC title game Saturday ruined the complicated and improbable scenario officials needed to unfold for that to happen. Friedgen knew once Orlando's Champs Sports Bowl selected Florida State that the Terrapins were bound for Boise.

Maryland will face a Nevada team that finished in a three-way tie for second in the Western Athletic Conference. Three of the Wolf Pack's losses were to teams -- Texas Tech, Missouri and Boise State -- that were probably as good or better than any Maryland faced this season. The Wolf Pack ranks third in rushing defense but 119th, last in division I-A, in pass defense.

Offensively, Nevada ranks second nationally in rushing, averaging 291 yards per game, and fifth in total offense. That is a particular concern for a Maryland defense that will be without defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, who accepted a job as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Kansas State.

Friedgen said he would decide soon whether to hire a replacement before the game or turn over coordinator duties for the bowl game to Al Seamonson, Maryland's outside linebackers/special teams assistant.

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