BOISE, Idaho - The Humanitarian Bowl began with the announcement that seven Maryland players, including star running back Da'Rel Scott, would not start because of curfew violations. Then things got odder still.
Boise State's electric-blue field has often been the setting for memorable games, and Maryland's 42-35 victory over Nevada yesterday more than qualifies.
For the Terrapins and their fans, the game will probably best be remembered for an offensive explosion that sent coach Ralph Friedgen's largest senior class of 30 players out with a gritty win. The win - Maryland's fourth victory in its past five bowls - provided some salve for a once-promising Maryland season that had gone sour with two defeats to end the regular season.
It ended with defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo getting a Gatorade shower on the sideline. "We finished strong," senior linebacker Dave Philistin said. "One week we were playing for the Orange Bowl and the next week we were playing for Boise, but we finished strong."
Maryland won despite two second-half turnovers by quarterback Chris Turner, who passed for 198 yards, that allowed Nevada to rally from a 14-point deficit and tie the score at 28 early in the fourth quarter. The Terps hung on largely because Scott, who sat out the first half because of the suspension, ran for 174 yards and two touchdowns in the second half against the third-ranked rushing defense in the nation. Scott's first scoring run pushed him over 1,000 yards for the season.
The Terps also prevailed by not allowing Nevada's "Pistol" offense, which entered the game second in the nation in rushing, to control the tempo. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who topped 1,000 rushing yards during the regular season, had limited success on the ground but broke a Humanitarian Bowl record for passing yards with 370. He also missed a handful of open receivers with errant throws.
"We kind of went in with the mind-set that if they were going to beat us, they were going to have to throw the ball," Friedgen said.
It was a game full of developments that must have looked even stranger than the blue field to the roughly 1,000 Maryland fans, band members and officials in attendance.
Who could have predicted that:
* Maryland would win despite benching so many key players? The list included six regulars - Scott, linebackers Moise Fokou, Trey Covington and Antwine Perez, defensive back Jamari McCollough and wide receiver Danny Oquendo. Linebacker Derek Drummond, who is not a regular, was also benched. All the suspended players eventually got into the game, although Scott and Oquendo didn't play until the third quarter.
* Little-used Maryland running back Morgan Green, who rushed for 40 yards all season, would step in and run for 73 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown? His last carry had been against Eastern Michigan three months ago.
* Torrey Smith would run 99 yards for his first kickoff-return touchdown of the season - and in the process set the single-season Atlantic Coast Conference record for kickoff-return yards?
* That the ball would blow off the tee just as Maryland's Obi Egekeze was kicking, resulting in a 15-yard kick returned to the Maryland 9-yard line? Kenny Tate's end-zone interception saved Maryland from surrendering a first-quarter score.
The tone of the game was evident when Turner was stripped and fumbled with the Terps leading 28-21 in the third quarter. Linebacker Brandon Marshall picked it up for Nevada but fumbled the ball right back to Maryland's Scott Burley.
Maryland led 28-14 before the turnovers. Turner was intercepted by Jonathan Amaya, setting up Nevada at the Maryland 22. Vai Taua's 17-yard touchdown catch made it 28-21.
Turner's fumble on the next series set up Nevada again. The Wolf Pack tied the score on Marko Mitchell's 21-yard reception with 14:13 left in the game.
But Scott, who had needed 41 yards to top 1,000 for the season, took over from there. He bolted up the middle for a 49-yard touchdown to make it 35-28 with 12:21 left.
Scott scored again on a 2-yard run to make it 42-28.
The 42-35 score tied a Humanitarian Bowl record for most combined points.
Total combined yards of offense by Maryland and Nevada
Total rushing yards by Da'Rel Scott
Total receiving yards this season by Adrian Cannon before his 59-yard touchdown reception yesterday
play it again
What went right
Maryland rushed for 258 yards against a team with a defense that thrived on stopping the run. Maryland's defense surrendered a lot of yards but came up big - such as on freshman Kenny Tate's first career interception - when it needed to.
What went wrong
Seven players missed curfew and didn't play the whole game. That meant that players such as linebacker Jared Harrell had to step in cold.
Da'Rel Scott bolted 49 yards for a touchdown to put the Terps ahead 35-28. Nevada had no answer for him.