ANNAPOLIS - It was a great consolation present. The Maryland Terrapins put on an entertaining show in their first bowl game in Randy Edsall's three years as head coach.
Maryland won seven games and finally qualified for a bowl, albeit one just 30 miles away from College Park.
It wasn't the bowl the Terrapins wanted nor the result they wanted. The 31-20 loss to Marshall was hardly embarrassing.
"Our kids had a really good time here this week," Edsall said. "I think the whole experience is just great for these young men in terms of what it does for them and a reward for what they did during the season."
As Maryland leaves the ACC for the Big 10, this appearance gives them something to build on.
"We had a great season. We had a winning season," quarterback C.J. Brown said.
The day was beautiful. Traffic was a nightmare for the fans, nearly all of whom had never been here before.
The wonderful Maryland broadcaster Johnny Holliday walked around the gates, looking for the press entrance. Holliday hadn't been here since he broadcast games for Navy in the mid-1970s.
He'd been here more recently than the Terrapins, whose games he's called for 35 years. Maryland hadn't played here since 1965.
It was the first Terps' bowl since 2010, and that's saying a lot since there are 35 of them. Their last postseason appearance came in the Military Bowl when they beat East Carolina at RFK Stadium.
This was the sixth Military Bowl, and after five at the decrepit stadium in DC, it was decided to move it, and what better place than Annapolis?
Navy played in the first one in 2008, Maryland the third two years later. Those were well attended. The other three were not.
On Friday, the stands at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium were nearly full with 30,163, just a few thousand short of capacity.
"It was a pretty pleasurable bowl site for us to be in, and just a good time," running back Brandon Ross said.
Had Maryland beaten Boston College last month, they probably would have ended up at the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La. Instead, the Eagles get to play Arizona on New Year's Eve, and the Terps got to stay at a Washington, DC hotel.
"Being in College Park, there's not too much time to venture down to DC for free time," Brown said. "In itself, we were away."
Defensive tackle Andre Monroe is from nearby Temple Hills, Md., and he echoed Brown.
"It still felt like I was away. I was a blessing, the opportunity to be in a bowl," Monroe said.
It was a somewhat strange scene. Marshall, runner up in Conference USA, traveled well. A six-hour drive away, the Thundering Herd hadn't been to a bowl game in two years when they beat Florida International in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla. They brought thousands of green clad fans. They were treated to an entertaining afternoon.
Starting two drives on their own 1, the Terps consumed 7:44, driving 99 yards on 17 plays, to take their first and only lead, 20-17 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
"We put ourselves in a position to get ahead, and then we weren't able to hold it," Edsall said.
That lead lasted less than three minutes when Marshall answered with an impressive drive of its own and then another. Maryland was left looking forward to Indiana, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Rutgers in the Big 10 next season.
"Now, they believe in themselves, regardless of who's out there on the field, we can win and we're going to win," Edsall said.
Maryland converted just two of 14 opportunities on third down, and that ending up costing them.
"We kept kicking ourselves in the foot, hurting ourselves with penalties. We had a couple of drops here, had a couple of missed reads," Brown said. "We'll just use this to prepare for the future."