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Maryland (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)



Tuesday, December 30th - 4:30 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: The Maryland Terrapins and the Nevada Wolf Pack will collide for the first-time ever on the gridiron when the two teams battle in the Humanitarian Bowl at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho.

This is the third straight bowl appearance for Maryland, and the sixth in the team's last eight seasons. In the team's postseason history the Terrapins have a 9-11-2 mark, and that includes last season's tough 21-14 setback to Oregon State in the Emerald Bowl. The loss to the Beavers snapped the team's three- game bowl win streak. However, since 1984, Maryland has collected six wins in its last eight bowl matchups.

This season the Terps stormed out of the gates, winning four of their first five games, including three in a row. Two of the victories came against California (35-27) and Clemson (20-17), both of which were ranked at the tie of the matchups. After an embarrassing 31-0 setback to Virginia, Maryland rebounded with victories over Wake Forest (26-0) and NC State (27-24). Unfortunately the year did not end well for the Terps, as the team dropped three of its last four contests. However, the lone win during that stretch, was the team's seventh on the year, and solidified the Terps' bowl berth.

When the team learned of its destination, coach Ralph Friedgen made sure his team was ready for the task at hand.

"I'm really excited to go to the Humanitarian Bowl," said coach Friedgen. "We're going to go play a very good team, and it's going to be a real challenge for our players. I think they'll see another part of the country. All the head coaches that I've talked to when we critique the bowls at the end of the season have said that their kids really enjoyed this bowl, and I'm sure ours will, too."

Much like their counterpart the Wolf Pack also finished the regular season with a 7-5 ledger. Nevada opened its season with a win over Grambling (49-13), but quickly fell to 1-2 with back-to-back setbacks against Texas Tech (35-19) and Missouri (69-17). The Pack rebounded quickly however, winning three of their next four games, and all three victories were by double figures. After losing to Hawaii, 38-31 on the road, Nevada closed out its regular season with three wins in its last four matchups, including a thrilling, 35-31 victory over Louisiana Tech in the team's finale. The seven wins earned the Pack their fourth straight bowl game, which is a school record.

Coach Chris Ault was definitely excited of the team's achievement and welcomed the upcoming challenge.

"Maryland is a great football team from a class conference," said coach Ault. "We?re happy to have the opportunity to play in Boise, a WAC city that supports football so well. It will be a neat experience for our kids."

This is the ninth postseason game in the school history for Nevada, which has dropped its last two bowl contests, including a 21-20 loss to Miami-Florida in the MPC Computers Bowl, which is now the Humanitarian Bowl.

The Terps were not overwhelming on the offensive side of the ball this season, as the team racked up just 20.1 ppg, behind a mediocre 341.9 total ypg. Maryland churned out just 134.5 ypg on the ground during the year and the majority of the damage was done by tailback Da'Rel Scott, who rushed for 959 yards and six touchdowns on 4.9 ypc. Scott, who also caught 21 passes on the year, earned First Team All-ACC honors with his consistent performance. A lot of Scott's success however, can be attributed to the play of the offensive line, in particular lineman Edwin Williams, who understand the front line will need to open holes for Scott in this matchup.

"We're really getting established," said Williams. "We have Da'Rel Scott, he's one of the premier running backs in the ACC and we have to get him to that 1,000-yard mark. That's definitely a goal for us. We want to get him past that mark and establish ourselves as an offensive line. It's the last game of the year. We just want to end on a good note."

The passing attack was led by Chris Turner, but the quarterback was far from effective this year. Turner threw for 2,318 yards in 12 games, but tossed just 11 scores against 10 interceptions. The main target for Turner is the dangerous Darrius Heyward-Bey, who led the team with 38 receptions, 561 yards and five TDs. Heyward-Bey has been dealing with a sore calf, but should be on the field for the Terps this Tuesday.

What carried the Terps through most of the season was their play defensively, as Maryland limited opponents to 355.0 total ypg, and 21.4 ppg. The one area the defense struggled at was defending the pass, as teams averaged 205.6 ypg through the air, and out of the 28 touchdowns allowed by this unit 17 came via the pass. The Terps were not very opportunistic either this season, forcing just 14 turnovers, while recording only 25 sacks. Maryland was able to limit teams to just 36 percent on third down attempts, but the team struggled inside its own red zone, allowing teams to score 86 percent of the time. Alex Wujciak was tremendous for this team throughout the season, leading the defense with 121 tackles. Wujciak's efforts earned him a spot on the All-ACC First Team. Not to be overlooked is the play of fellow linebacker, Moise Fokou, who led the team with 11.0 TFLs and five sacks. The senior linebacker understands what a win would means for the fellow veterans on the roster.

"I think it would mean a lot," said Fokou. "We've all been unhappy with the past two games. To get one last win for the seniors, that would mean a lot. We've been playing here for a long time, and it's always a good feeling when you can end on a good note."

As for the Wolf Pack, they possess a dangerous and effective offensive unit, which recorded an outstanding 37.8 ppg. The team averaged 219.2 ypg through the air, but the main source of production came from the ground game. Nevada rushed for an outstanding 291.4 ypg on the year, finishing second in the nation behind only Navy, and out of the 56 touchdowns scored by this unit, 37 came via the run. Vai Taua was the main tailback for the Pack and was unstoppable throughout the season, rushing for 1,420 yards and 14 scores. The sophomore running back, who earned First Team All-WAC honors, should be ready for this matchup with Maryland, and is without question excited for the challenge.

"It is going to be a blessing for me to step on the field with this group of seniors one more time," said Taua.

Not to be overlooked is the play from quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was honored as the WAC Player of Year. Kaepernick only completed 54.8 percent of his passes this year, but the signal caller finished with 2,479 yards and 19 touchdowns against just five interceptions. What is even more impressive is Kaepernick's ability to beat a defense on the ground, as the sophomore rushed for 1,115 yards and 16 touchdowns on the year. Obviously Kaepernick can beat a defense many different ways, but when he looks to pass, he usually looks toward Marko Mitchell. Mitchell, who joins his teammates on the All-WAC First Team, hauled in a team-best 56 receptions, for 1,011 yards and nine scores.

Unfortunately the defense did not enjoy much success this season, as the team was abused for 395.6 total ypg, and that led to an equally poor 31.5 ppg. The main issue for this unit throughout the season has been its inability to stop the pass, as opponents are throwing for 321.1 ypg, and out of the 43 touchdowns surrendered by Nevada, 29 have come via the pass. The defense was at least able to force plenty of big plays, forcing 22 turnovers, while recording 34 sacks. The main reason why the team had so much success pressuring the quarterback is due to the play of Kevin Basped and Dontay Moch. Basped led the Pack with an impressive 18.5 TFLs and 10.0 sacks on the season and earned a spot on the All-WAC First Team. As for Moch, he earned Second Team All-WAC honors by racking up 15.5 TFLs and 9.5 sacks. Senior co-captain Mundrae Clifton, who tallied 30 tackles playing on the line with Basped and Moch, understands how important it is to play in a bowl game.

"It is a big accomplishment for us and it shows the character of this team," said Clifton. "We are proud to be there."

The Terrapins have relied on the strong play of their defense all year long, but the Wolf Pack's offense will likely be too much for Maryland to handle. Expect the Terps to hang around for the first half, but do not be surprised if Nevada pulls away in the latter stages of the contest.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 37, Maryland 21

12/26 09:46:24 ET

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