Oct. 12, 1999
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - Maryland will stage its annual Midnight Madness basketball party Friday night at Cole Field House. The real zaniness, however, will take place about 13 hours later across the street.
The Maryland football team, usually an afterthought on campus at this time of year, will seek to enhance its bowl chances with a victory Saturday against Clemson.
It may sound crazy, but they're talking about a bowl bid at Maryland. And it's about time.
The Terrapins haven't had a winning season since 1995 and have gone eight seasons since their last postseason appearance. But Maryland (4-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) already has more wins than last year and can move into third place in the ACC by beating the Tigers (2-3, 2-1).
For once, Maryland's football team is actually a hotter topic than the school's highly successful basketball squad.
"A lot of people come up to me and say congratulations, good job, keep it up," sophomore center Melvin Fowler said Tuesday. "Friends and relatives who I haven't seen in a couple of years are calling me up and asking for tickets. There's definitely a lot of excitement over our good start."
Maryland hasn't finished higher than fourth in the ACC since 1985, when coach Bobby Ross led the Terrapins to a 9-3 record. Ross lasted one more year, and Maryland enjoyed little success under Joe Krivak and Mark Duffner.
Ron Vanderlinden, who helped rebuild programs at Colorado and Northwestern, was hired as head coach before the 1997 season to bring Maryland out of its 12-year funk. The Terrapins went 2-9 and 3-8 before finally striking gold this season.
The team got some attention by improving to 3-0 with a 33-0 rout of West Virginia, then hung with highly-ranked Georgia Tech for three quarters before falling 49-31. The Terrapins bounced back with a 17-14 win at Wake Forest last week, and now need just two more wins to qualify for a bowl game.
Why settle for just that? Junior tailback LaMont Jordan, who's on pace to set a school record for career yards rushing, has an even loftier goal in mind.
"My thinking is the ACC championship," he said. "We started off the season talking about being bowl-bound, but we can be co-champions if we win the rest of our games."
Whoa. That would mean beating Florida State and North Carolina State on the road. It will be tough enough to defeat Clemson, which has allowed a total of 12 points in thumping Maryland six straight times since 1992.
"Our guys have stayed focused," Vanderlinden said. "They're concerned only with taking one step at a time."
The first significant step came against West Virginia. Hanging with Georgia Tech was another one, followed by the win over Wake Forest, the Terrapins' first ACC victory over a team other than Duke in three seasons under Vanderlinden.
"It seems like with every victory, more and more people start to believe in us," safety Shawn Forte said.
Vanderlinden claims that he's too involved in his work to notice the buzz around campus. But the long hours just don't seem to be as grueling anymore.
"That 70-hour work week is a lot easier when you're 4-1 than when you have a losing record," he said. "The players seem to enjoy practice and are a lot more focused. It's gratifying for both the coaches and the players to see the fruit of your labor."