Postcards from Jacksonville: Day 6 At The Gator Bowl
Dec. 31, 2003
Fast Fact of the Day: The Terps are a perfect 3-0 vs. West Virginia under coach Ralph Friedgen winning each game since 2001 when he took over. The Terps have won the last two by a combined score of 82-24 in 2002 and 2003.
By Jason Yellin
JACKSONVILLE -- The juices are flowing as the Terps and Mounatineers will finally hit the field for the 2004 Gator Bowl tomorrow at 12:30 p.m.
Wednesday was a busy day for the Terps and especially head coach Ralph Friedgen.
The Terps got off to any early start with a 7:15 p.m., wake up call. After a continental breakfast at the team hotel, the players met in units until 9 a.m.
They then departed for ALLTEL Stadium for the walk-through and a chance to the see the stadium one last time before they would arrive for the big game.
The Terps got a glimpse of the field at ALLTEL with all its signs and pageantry for the bowl. They then headed over to the Jaguars' practice field for a quick walk through.
While they were going through last minute strategy, the equipment staff was busy setting up the locker room, polishing helmets and putting stickers on them.
After the walk through, they returned to the locker room to pick up their Gator Bowl gift - an awesome, all-in-one video recorder, digital camera, MP3 player. They players were excited for the gift.
As they headed out to the bus, the laughs started as the players checked out the Jacksonville Times-Union with a front cover picture of Jafar Williams being carried out at the senior salute by academic counselor Natasha Criss. Even coach Friedgen laughed at the picture.
The team returned to the hotel before Friedgen and three senior leaders: Lamar Bryant, Bruce Perry and Madieu Williams headed off to the final pregame press conference at the media hotel - the Adam's Mark.
Coach Friedgen spoke first about the Terps success and this week leading up the game. The players answered questions. West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez and three Mountaineers also took questions.
Following the press conference, it was off to the Coaches Luncheon and Hall of Fame Induction lunch also at the Adam's Mark. Both entire rosters and support staffs were on hand the bowl's premier event other than the game.
The event featured the induction of former Gator Bowl stars Donny Anderson (Texas Tech) and Rodney Hampton (Georgia) along with long-time bowl supporter Ash Verlander into the Gator Bowl Hall of Fame.
The coaches both gave brief speeches as the teams enjoyed great lunches and wonderful chocolate mousse desserts.
The luncheon wrapped up around 1:40 and the Terps returned to the hotel to pack up for their secret change of location. As the Terps have done each of the last two years, they dress squad and coaches change hotels the night before the bowl game to allow for the players to focus on the game while avoiding the celebrations surrounding the hotel.
The Terps relocated by 3 p.m. to parts unknown.
While the team was off to focus, the Gator Bowl events picked up as the VyStar 5K run was held at the Jacksonville Landing.
Several members of the Maryland Athletic Department ran the race including: Kathy Worthington, Chris Nations, Aaron Haviland and Randy Eaton.
After the race, it was time for the annual Gator Bowl parade. The event featured 90 floats, bands and shows running for 90 minutes on the main strip outside the Landing.
The Might Sound of Maryland played as Testudo had his own ride as well.
After the parade, it was time for Terps Pep Rally inside the Landing on the St. John's River. Thousands of Terp fans cheered the band and cheerleaders in the final celebration before the game on Thursday.
Of course New Year's Eve is always a big night, but the Terps were in bed with lights out by 10:30 p.m. for the reason why they are in Jacksonville -- to win the Gator Bowl.