Jan 1, 2004
By EDDIE PELLS
AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The rematch turned out to be a replay.
Scott McBrien threw for a career-high 381 yards to help No. 23 Maryland to a 41-7 victory over No. 20 West Virginia in the Gator Bowl on Thursday, a rematch of a regular-season game that was almost as lopsided.
Playing against the team he left in 2001, McBrien threw for three scores and ran for another. His teammate, Steve Suter, returned a punt for a touchdown and made a highlight-reel catch to help the once-downtrodden Terrapins (10-3) reach 10 wins for the third straight year under coach Ralph Friedgen, aka "The Fridge."
Only Texas, Oklahoma, Miami and Washington State can boast a similar three-year stretch.
"How long has it been since Maryland has been mentioned in the same breath with those teams?" Friedgen said. "That's how far we've come."
They've done it thanks in part to West Virginia. Counting the 34-7 win in the regular season, the Terps have defeated the Mountaineers four times over the last three years by an average score of 35-13.
That these teams were playing a rematch of a lopsided game may have seemed strange to some. But that's one of the quirks of the bowl system, and thus, a sellout crowd of 78,892 got a less-than-scintillating game.
Friedgen downplayed the dominance.
"The biggest thing is, we got ahead fast. That's it," he said.
The Mountaineers, co-champs of the Big East, came in on a seven-game winning streak, trying to establish themselves as the team to beat next year in their revamped conference - minus Miami and Virginia Tech.
Instead, they reinforced their remarkable penchant for flopping in bowl games. West Virginia is 1-10 in its last 11 bowl appearances, 0-2 during Rich Rodriguez' tenure by a combined score of 89-29.
"Our preparation was probably no different than Maryland's or anyone else's," Rodriguez said. "We were focused. Our intensity in practice was good. We were excited about playing. We just didn't play well. Maryland's a better team."
Suter, a junior playing with a bum knee that needs surgery, made the highlight plays for Maryland.
Early in the second quarter, he fielded a punt at his 24 and went the length of the field, barely touched by only one Mountaineer, for a score and a 17-0 lead. It added to his 80-yard punt return for a score last season against West Virginia in a 48-17 win.
In the third quarter, Suter jumped with Mountaineers cornerback Lance Frazier for a long pass down the sideline that Frazier batted into the air, only to watch it fall to the receiver at the West Virginia 7. Three plays later, McBrien ran in for a 31-0 lead.
The senior quarterback finished 21-for-33, a great closing act for the native of Rockville, Md., who transferred from West Virginia to Maryland after Rodriguez took over the Mountaineers and made McBrien third string.
McBrien finished 21-6 as a starter for the Terps and 3-0 against the Mountaineers.
"Scott, if he played us 12 times, he'd probably be in the Heisman race," West Virginia running back Quincy Wilson said. "That's my man. I've known him since we first started off. Anytime he does well, I'm rooting for him."
McBrien's favorite target Thursday was backup receiver Jafar Williams, a senior who came in with 10 catches for one score all season, but made four catches for two TDs in his final game.
"It may be his last game, but it's something he'll cherish forever," Friedgen said.
As is common in these lopsided losses, West Virginia had a bunch of small, embarrassing moments to go with the bigger ones.
The Mountaineers burned two timeouts in the first seven minutes trying to get their special teams figured out. Later, they were called for 12 men on the field during a Maryland extra-point try.
They trailed 17-0 and had lost two fumbles before they made their first first down early in the second quarter.
Given five weeks to prepare, they got a little tricky, using quarterback Rasheed Marshall for a pooch punt on fourth-and-short; the kick went straight in the air, a 16-yard boot that gave Maryland first down at its 20 - hardly worth the effort.
Marshall wasn't much better passing: He finished 10-for-16 for 87 yards. Wilson finished with 49 yards on 12 runs.
"We've got to address a lot of things," Rodriguez said.
While the Mountaineers could very well drop out of the polls to end the season, Friedgen is hoping for a big boost upward. His team has gone 10-1 since an 0-2 start.
"To me, it's where you are at the end of the year that counts, not the first two games," he said. "All the teams that lost today - they need to be behind us."