COLLEGE PARK – Most current University of Maryland undergraduate students were still in elementary school the last time the Terrapin football team played in a postseason bowl game.
But that drought – 11 years long – appears at an end. The Terps, under new head coach Ralph Friedgen, are 6-0 and almost assured of a postseason bowl bid, something that hasn’t happened since 1990.
That’s when Maryland appeared in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. The game ended in a tie – something that can’t happen now – but alumni are hoping the new Terrapin season has a much less disappointing end.
Led by head coach Joe Krivak, the 6-5 Terrapins were set to play 8-3 Louisiana Tech University, led by Willie Roaf, Doug Evans and Chris Boniol, all of whom went on to the NFL.
Boniol hit a 29-yard field goal as time expired to salvage a 34-34 tie for the Bulldogs after the Terrapins jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead.
The tough ending of the game left an empty feeling with some players.
“That bowl game was tough on everybody,” said Dan DeArmas, the team’s placekicker. “I was crushed. We had the game in hand, but unfortunately we let them creep back in.”
DeArmas missed the only point-after-touchdown of his career in that game and felt personally responsible for the loss.
“I carried that burden with me for a very long time,” said DeArmas.
The success of Maryland’s football program is so rare that Gov. Parris N. Glendening vividly remembers the thrill that the bowl appearance brought to state residents.
“I have seen all of the ups and downs of Maryland football,” said Glendening. “I remember there was a sense of excitement and a general buzz in Prince George’s County about the team. There’s nothing like a winning team to get people excited.”
Glendening, then Prince George’s County executive, also was a government and politics professor at Maryland when the football team made its last bowl appearance.
Qualifying for a bowl game was a product of the team’s confidence and leadership, DeArmas said.
“We really had some great leadership in Scott Zolak as a quarterback and a defense that had a `never say die’ mentality,” said DeArmas. “We could play with anybody and we really showed that. All the hard work really paid off. It’s funny because we were only 6-5, but at that time it felt like we were undefeated.”
Maryland is long overdue for its 18th bowl appearance, he said. And DeArmas said he’s noticed some key similarities between the current team and the 1990 squad.
“Coach Friedgen has brought the will to win and the will to prepare to win, and that’s something Maryland hasn’t had for a long time,” said DeArmas. “The direction that Maryland is going in now, they’re going to a big (bowl).”
The success of the football team has been a rallying point for Maryland residents trying to cope with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Sept. 24 tornado that killed two students and caused millions in damage, said Glendening, a Florida State graduate who will attend the Maryland-Florida State game in Tallahassee on Oct. 27.
“This is exactly the positive lift that the state needs,” said Glendening. “It’s been a rough couple of months. I can tell across the state, everyone is talking about it as a wonderful boost.”
The Terrapins qualified for the 1990 bowl in their final regular season game, upsetting eighth-ranked Virginia on the road, 35-30. That win marked the last time before Thursday’s 20-17 overtime victory over Georgia Tech that the Terps defeated a top 25 opponent.
The last time Maryland won a bowl game was 1985, when they defeated Syracuse 35-18 in Detroit’s Cherry Bowl.