Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne and Navy Coach George Welsh each had a chance yesterday to take a few minutes to enjoy the bowl bids their teams received Saturday.

"I told the squad that in a lot of ways this was the most gratifying season we have had," said Welsh, whose 7-3 Mids will play Houston in the Garden State Bowl Dec. 14. "With all the injuries and all the changes we've had to make, what we've done is something we should be quite pleased with.

"After the Air Force game we were a 3-2 team looking at four road games in the next five against some pretty tough teams. I think the players realized at that point that they had not played well against Air Force and we regrouped."

Welsh cited the upset victory over Rose Bowl-bound Washington as the turning point in the season. "I can't say exactly why we got it going that week, but we did," he said. "If we hadn't won that game we obviously wouldn't be going to a bowl."

With the Army game two weeks off, Welsh gave his players and his coaches a day off to enjoy what they have already accomplished.

There was no resting in College Park, however, because the Terps, 7-3 and heading for the Tangerine Bowl Dec. 20 against Florida, must close their regular season Saturday at Virginia.

"We won't have any trouble getting up to play Virginia," Claiborne said. "Our players know that Virginia probably should have beaten Clemson and they did beat Tennessee down there. We'll just work on fundamentals this week and try to keep getting better."

It will be difficult for Maryland to be much better than it was Saturday in routing Clemson, 34-7. Claiborne cited virtually his entire team for outstanding play, giving special plaudits to the defensive line, quarterback Mike Tice, tight end Eric Sievers and wide receiver Chris Havener.

Havener, who did not even have a scholarship for his senior season until last summer, may be the most under-rated player in the ACC. He should be an all-conference player but has not received enough publicity to get the votes he deserves.