A Peach Of A Game For The Terps
Dec 31, 2002
By KEITH PARSONS
ATLANTA (AP) - A victory on the final day of 2002 helped Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen forget one of the year's most disappointing losses.
Nick Kovak kicked three field goals for the Terrapins, who reached 11 wins for the first time since 1976. They also won a bowl for the first time in 17 years, removing some of the sting from last season's 56-23 loss to Florida in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2.
The win came in the Georgia Dome, where Maryland won the 2002 NCAA basketball title in March.
"This is the last day of 2002," Friedgen said. "On the (second) day of the year we played in the Orange Bowl. Then our basketball team won the national championship in this very building.
"And now this. It's been a heck of a year for the old Terps."
The Terrapins (11-3) were outgained 287-274, but pulled away thanks to a stingy, opportunistic defense.
All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson had three sacks, four tackles for a loss, broke up four passes and forced a fumble. He was selected as the defensive Most Outstanding Player.
"I knew I had to pull my end of the rope," Henderson said. "It's a great feeling to go out the way I did."
After a 1-2 start, including a 22-0 loss to Notre Dame in the Kickoff Classic, the Terrapins recovered to win 10 of their last 11. Friedgen, a 1970 Maryland graduate, is the first coach in school history to win at least 10 games in back-to-back seasons.
"Winning 11 games after starting 1-2 is something I will never forget," Friedgen said. "That was so emotional."
The Volunteers (8-5) completed their worst season since 1988, and gave coach Phillip Fulmer the most losses of his 11-year career. Twice the defense had to call a timeout after appearing confused, and two roughing-the-passer penalties helped sustain Maryland scoring drives.
"I take full responsibility for the game and the lack of execution," Fulmer said. "Our discipline wasn't what it needed to be. There are a number of things that happened that are my responsibility."
McBrien, the Most Outstanding Player on offense, finished 11-of-19 for 120 yards. Bruce Perry, finally healthy after a lengthy recovery from a torn groin, ran for 50.
"It's funny, because I don't think it was one of my top performances," McBrien said. "But other guys stepped up when I wasn't there to make the play."
Tennessee's Casey Clausen completed 23-of-37 passes for 242 yards, but made an ill-timed throw in the second quarter to give Maryland the momentum.
Scrambling out of the pocket, he lofted a screen pass toward an area cluttered with offensive linemen. Cox ran in and picked it off, then raced across the field and sprinted away from everyone for his second touchdown of the season.
This one gave the Terrapins a 14-0 lead, and they cruised from there.
"It's a mentality," Clausen said. "It's been a long time since we've been physically whipped. We lost way too many games this year. That's going to change."
Maryland's only turnover came early in the third quarter, when wide receiver Latrez Harrison fumbled after a 17-yard reception. Mark Jones recovered and returned it 18 yards to the Terrapins 41, the best field position of the game for the Volunteers.
Tennessee eventually drove to the 12 and had first-and-10. But Henderson forced a fumble on the next play with a hard hit on Derrick Tinsley, and cornerback Domonique Foxworth recovered at the 7-yard line.
Novak completed the ensuing drive with his second field goal, extending the lead to 20-3, and McBrien added his final touchdown early in the fourth quarter to put it away.
"We wanted to get after them," Henderson said. "We knew if we stopped their run, we'd stop them, because they're a one-dimensional team."
The game was sponsored by Chick-fil-A.