While a trip to a warmer climate would have been a welcome reward for the Maryland football team, Coach Randy Edsall said many of his players are grateful to be participating in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, in large part because they’ll be able to spend Christmas at home with family and friends before playing just a short drive from campus.
Edsall spoke Thursday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium during a news conference with Marshall Coach Doc Holliday, whose Thundering Herd will face the Terrapins on Dec. 27. Kickoff is set for 2:30.
The Terrapins (7-3) are making their first bowl appearance since 2010, when they played in the Military Bowl in the final game for then-coach Ralph Friedgen. Maryland trampled East Carolina, 51-30, at RFK Stadium for its fourth consecutive victory in a bowl game.
“Our guys are going to be here through the holiday season and Christmas, and their families are going to be able to be around and be here,” Edsall said. “It is something that’s very, very special because again the one thing you want to do is have your family here and support you. That’s going to be able to happen for all of our guys, but [especially] for the number of kids we have from this immediate area.”
Roughly half of Maryland’s roster is from the Washington metropolitan area or neighboring cities such as Annapolis or Baltimore. With the game two days after Christmas, the Terrapins expect a heavy por-Maryland turnout given the proximity to College Park and with many friends and relatives coming back for the holidays.
Annapolis also is within driving distance for fans of Marshall (9-4), which most recently lost to Rice, 41-24, on Saturday in the Conference USA title game. The Thundering Herd also has its share of players from the D.C. area, including starting running back Essray Taliaferro (Briar Woods High School).
“We have a big fan base up in this area, so I’m sure they’ll be excited for the game and to be here,” Holliday said. “The thing about college football players, their families tend to follow them wherever they go, so we have a lot of kids from the state of Florida and Georgia, but they always seem to find a way to get with their kids, especially during bowl games that are happening over Christmas.”
Although Maryland and Marshall have never played head-to-head, Holliday and Edsall have known each other for some 30-plus years going back to when both were beginning their coaching careers. When Edsall was an assistant at Syracuse, his alma mater, in the 1980s, he frequently would talk shop with Holliday during spring recruiting trips to Florida. Holliday at the time was as an assistant at West Virginia, where he played linebacker.
Both coaches also expressed reverence for Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which holds 34,000 and underwent significant renovations from 2002 through ’05. Edsall recalled a game in 1977 when he was playing for Syracuse in which Orange wide receiver Art Monk set the school’s single-game record with 14 receptions in a 45-34 victory.
“Being here as a player, you walk in, and you just take a look around,” Edsall said. “It’s something to me that’s very, very special. The respect that you have for the young men and women who go here to the Naval Academy, and you take a look at the people who’ve played in this stadium. To me it’s a neat thing, and really it’s an honor to be able to be in here and play because of what the Naval Academy represents.”