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
"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