WASHINGTON D.C. – At least Ralph Friedgen will be going out a winner. The head coach of the Maryland Terrapins, who had the remainder of his contract bought out by the university in order to bring in new leadership, picked up one final win with Maryland’s victory over East Carolina in the Military Bowl.
A chippy game from start to finish, the Terrapins were able to overcome some sloppy play and build a lead early on and hang on. And when Maryland got on track they blew away their opponents from Conference USA. Maryland scored a touchdown on three separate one-play drives, including long touchdown runs by Military Bowl MVP Da’Rel Scott for 61-yards and 91 yards to help seal the outcome of a 51-20 victory. Scott finished the game with 201 rushing yards and averaged 15.4 yards per carry.
Despite the high point total the story of the game was the bittersweet farewell to Friedgen. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fans coming out and supporting us,” the coach said on the field after the game. “If you have to go out this is the best way to do it.”
Friedgen will walk away from Maryland with a 75-50 record and a 5-2 bowl record. Under Friedgen the Terrapins graduated players (only five players left the program early for a shot in the NFL) and the program stayed out of trouble with the NCAA while conference rivals periodically were in and out of the headlines for the wrong reasons. The two time ACC Coach of the Year, including this season after turning Maryland around in the biggest improvement from one season to another, hopes for the best for the kids currently on the team.
“This team is destined for great things,” Friedgen said. “I am happy to watch this team and I wish them the very best. I am with them in spirit every step of the way.”
Maryland was picked last in the ACC Atlantic Division before the season started but clawed their way to a nine win season. “Not many teams can say they did that,” Friedgen said of his team’s ability to prove the critics wrong. “They just started to get good. I am disappointed I am not going to be there,” he added.
Friedgen indicated that he would be content stepping back from football for the time being and referenced a conversation he had with former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer, who told Friedgen that there is life after football. Friedgen, who has been involved in coaching as far back as 1969 said that if he got the itch to coach again, “I think somebody would hire me.”
A total of 38,062 were on hand for this year’s edition of this bowl game. It is the highest total attendance in the bowl’s three year history.