Besides grading the tapes of Saturday's game with North Carolina State, Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen was able to sit back in his office yesterday and do something few thought he would have to do a week prior, namely make out a practice schedule for December.
That's a privilege extended to the 64 college coaches whose teams qualify for the 32 bowl games to be played next month and in January. That Maryland (6-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) would be among those squads hardly was assured because the Terps had been injury-prone and wildly inconsistent, beating Rutgers and Boston College on the high end and losing to North Carolina on the opposite side.
But the Terps' 37-0 blanking of the Wolfpack not only propelled the team into bowl eligibility but allowed Friedgen the luxury of savoring what he called "a complete team effort" and planning for the immediate future.
That future includes waiting for a bowl to extend an invitation. As the eighth eligible team from the ACC, Maryland's bowl options are limited. By league rules, they cannot be invited to a game ahead of a team with two more conference wins. That means they will be, at best, the sixth option; however, they likely would not be taken ahead of Florida State, whose 4-4 ACC record includes a win over the Terps.
The Terps likely will be invited to either the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 28 in San Francisco to face a Pacific-10 team or the Humanitarian Bowl on Dec. 31 in Boise, Idaho, against a Western Athletic Conference team.
Friedgen, who said Saturday he had spoken to a representative of the Meineke Car Care Bowl earlier in the week, said yesterday that he hadn't heard from any bowl representatives since. Yesterday's film review only confirmed for Friedgen what he suspected: If the Terps could put aside their inconsistencies, even in the face of ailments, they have a chance to finish with a winning season.
"What I'm going to tell them is ... we've got to play like that[like they did against N.C. State] and like we did against BC, every week," Friedgen said. "If we can do that, and get that focus and that consistency, we're a pretty good football team, despite our injuries and all that."
The Terps will gain a month of extra practices, which means some of their walking wounded could come back.
Friedgen said there was a chance receivers Danny Oquendo and LaQuan Williams, both of whom suffered knee injuries, could play in a bowl. Left guard Jaimie Thomas, who fractured his leg in the Virginia game last month, might also be available but was more of a long shot.
Friedgen said defensive back Nolan Carroll, who strained his hamstring, would not need a magnetic resonance imaging exam and is expected to be available for the bowl game. Senior guard Andrew Crummey, who potentially risked his future by playing on a fractured leg, might also be available to play in a bowl despite having someone roll on his leg early in the second half.
The additional month will also give some of Maryland's younger players more time to develop and improve. Redshirt freshman running back Da'Rel Scott, who has battled injuries throughout the season, made a case to replace seniors Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball in the backfield next season. Scott compiled 125 all-purpose yards Saturday between rushing and returning kickoffs.
"He [Scott] has a lot of potential," Friedgen said. "Hopefully, he'll continue to improve."
Maryland was nearly perfect in the red zone against North Carolina State on Saturday, going 7-for-8, missing only on an end-of-game kneel-down.
Punter Travis Baltz placed only one punt inside the 20-yard line and could stand to get more height under his kicks to give the coverage team more time to get downfield.
The Terps (6-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) wait patiently by the phone for one of a number of bowl suitors to call for a December date.