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Maryland football to face Virginia Tech in Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium

For the first time since 2016, the Maryland football team is playing in a bowl game.

The Terps will face Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. The 42 bowl game pairings, including the College Football Playoff semifinals, were announced Sunday.

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It’s the first postseason game for Maryland (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten) since a 36-30 loss to Boston College in the 2016 Quick Lane Bowl in former coach DJ Durkin’s first season.

After starting this season 4-0, the Terps lost six of their next seven games before defeating Rutgers, 40-16, in the regular-season finale to clinch bowl eligibility. It’s the team’s first bowl game appearance under coach Mike Locksley, who’s 11-18 in his three seasons at Maryland.

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“We took a big step for the football team this year, but an even bigger step for our football program by putting ourselves in position to go to a bowl game in Year 3 of my tenure,” Locksley said during a video news conference on Sunday. “Now the foundation is there and this is the standard that we want and it’s one that we’ve got to continue to work toward and build upon. And this group of 25 seniors has done their part by laying the foundation and I know I’m gonna lean on those guys to help take us over the top.”

Perhaps most importantly, it’s the first time in five years that the team will get a few extra weeks of practice at the end of the season, which will go a long way toward developing young players. It also sends a group of seniors that have endured losing seasons, the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair and the firing of Durkin out on a high note.

“This was going to be my Christmas gift to them,” Locksley said. “This is the end of our [2021] season. But also gives us the start of the [2022 season], which is the bowl prep.”

Locksley said the team was happy for the postseason opportunity. However, being able to play in New York is the icing on the cake, as it will be easier for fans to make the trip to Yankee Stadium.

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“We have a footprint up in the New York-New Jersey region,” Locklsey said. “A lot [of] alumni that live up in that area, so it’s a win-win for us to be able to go to New York opportunity to play inside of Yankee Stadium against an old ACC rival.”

Junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa will also get another chance to build on a record-setting season. The Alabama transfer set the program record for completions (308) and passing yards (3,595) in a single season and has thrown a touchdown pass in 15 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation.

He’ll go up against Virginia Tech dual-threat quarterback Braxton Burmeister, who threw for 1,960 yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions and rushed for 521 yards and two scores. The teams’ statistical profiles are very similar, with Maryland ranked 65th in ESPN’s SP+ rankings — a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of efficiency — and the Hokies ranked 63rd.

This will be Maryland’s first game against its former Atlantic Coast Conference rival since 2013. The Hokies (6-6, 4-4 ACC) went 5-5 before firing six-year coach Justin Fuente, but, like Maryland, won their regular-season finale against Virginia, 29-24, to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2019. Virginia Tech went 5-6 in 2020, ending the nation’s longest active streak of consecutive bowl appearances at 27 years.

The Hokies recently hired Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry as head coach. J.C. Price, the interim coach, will lead Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl.

“I’m sure [Virginia Tech] will show up and want to play and really perform well,” Locksley said. “Kind of as an addition to their new head coach. By no means are we going into this game feeling because of the change that they have, that gives us an advantage.”

Locksley said the team will have 12 to 14 practices before heading to New York. For Locksley, the extra preparation will feel like it did during spring football in that it will help the development of the Terps’ younger players.

“I had each position coach kind of take all of our individual players and figure out what things we wanted to get accomplished on these next few weeks to improve each individual player,” Locksley said. “To me, that’s the beauty of being able to play in a bowl game is to develop the young players that maybe not has played a lot.”

A win over the Hokies would secure the Terps’ first winning season since 2014.

“Our goal is to go win the game and put ourselves in the best possible position by how we do the things that it takes to win,” Locksley said.

Pinstripe Bowl

MARYLAND VS. VIRGINIA TECH

Dec. 29, 2:15 p.m.

TV: ESPN Radio: 105.7 FM

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