Maryland’s reward for becoming bowl eligible at 6-6 with their season ending win over Rutgers? They’re going to Detroit!!! Mazel Tov. That’s right Terrapin fans, you can spend part of your Christmas vacation in one of America’s finest rust belt cities. Oh and did I mention it’s the day after Christmas? Yeah it’s something called the Quick Lane Bowl and the opponent is the equally mediocre 6-6 Boston College, once an ACC opponent. Who can’t wait to get tickets for that? “Quick Lane” is a good name for this bowl. As in, “find me the quick lane” for getting in and out of Detroit. If you really want to go to the game, you might check on flights in and out the same day. It kicks off at 2:30 in the afternoon, so you might be able to swing it.
Let’s hope at least Maryland gets paid for this schlep, which wasn’t the case the last time they played a bowl game in Detroit. Anybody remember the Cherry Bowl? Yeah, I didn’t think so. After going 9-3 in 1985 and winning the ACC with a 6-0 record, Maryland actually chose to play at the second annual bowl game at the old Pontiac Silverdome. A big part of the reason was money. The Cherry Bowl payout was the fifth largest of all the bowls at the time – $1.2 million. The bowl committee had high hopes for success. The first year they drew 70,000 to see Army beat Michigan State 10-6. Two huge things worked in their favor. One – Michigan State has a huge local fan base and two – Army was playing in it’s first ever bowl game. The matchup between Maryland and Syracuse didn’t draw nearly the interest. Maryland won easily 35-18 behind quarterback Stan Gelbaugh, who would go on to play in the NFL. But when it came time to collect a check, it never came. After failing to get the sponsorship it needed from General Motors, the Cherry Bowl folded before the Terps got their money.
As for Maryland’s bowl history, it includes some interesting highs and lows. Here are some of the high highs and low lows of bowls not named “Cherry”:
January 1, 1948, Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, Maryland 20 – Georgia 20 – This was Maryland’s first ever bowl game and it drew a capacity crowd – 16,666. That’s right. The Gator Bowl had less than 17,000 seats in 1948. Maryland’s Lu Gambino ran for 165 and three touchdowns to put the Terps up 20-7 going into the fourth quarter. But Georgia scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and had the ball at the Maryland four yard line as time ran out.
January 2, 1952, Tulane-Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, Maryland 28 – Tennessee 13 – Had this game been played today, it would have earned Maryland the National Championship. Problem was, the final rankings were determined before the bowls were played and despite a 9-0 record, Maryland went into this bowl ranked number three. Tennessee came in number one and stayed that way, despite the loss.
January 1, 1954, Orange Bowl, Miami, Oklahoma 7 – Maryland 0 – What comes round, goes round. Just as Tennessee losing to Maryland two years earlier didn’t hurt the Volunteers in the final rankings, this loss didn’t hurt the Terps. They won the school’s only National Championship in football by finishing the regular season 10-0 after closing with wins of 38-0 and 21-0 over Ole Miss and Alabama.
December 28, 1973, Peach Bowl, Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia 17 – Maryland 16 – This was a game that Maryland should have won. Seven times they got inside the Georgia 20 yard line and scored only nine points. Walter White’s 68 yard touchdown catch on a halfback option pass from Louis Carter was their only touchdown. Still, it was Maryland’s first bowl game in 18 years. And despite the loss, they finished the season 8-4 and ranked number 20 in the nation. Only two years after inheriting a 2-9 team from Roy Lester, coach Jerry Claiborne had made Maryland relevant again in football.
December 29, 1975, Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, Maryland 13 – Florida 0 – In what was in reality a Florida home game in pouring rain, Maryland earned it’s first win over an SEC team in 20 years and it’s first bowl victory in 23 years. Sophomore Larry Dick, who would spend the next two years backing up Mark Manges, threw the game’s only touchdown pass to Kit Hoover. Steve Atkins ran for 127 yards on 20 carries.
January 1, 1977, Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Houston 30 – Maryland 21 – A win would have capped off a 12-0 season. However, it wouldn’t have meant a national title since Pitt with Heisman trophy winner Tony Dorsett, took care of that by winning the Sugar Bowl. Plus, the final score doesn’t really show how Houston dominated Maryland in this game. They took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and finished the game with 320 yards rushing. Despite the loss, Maryland finished the year ranked 8th in the nation. It was the first Top 10 finish by an ACC team since 1960.
December 23, 1978, Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas 42 – Maryland 0 – Maryland worst ever bowl beatdown. They were no match for the Longhorns, who ran for 220 yards and held the Terps to just 34 yards. Texas had two players named Johnny Jones. One went by “Lam” and the other went by “Ham”. Between them, they accounted for five of Texas’ six touchdowns. Maryland still finished the season ranked number 20 in the nation with a 9-3 record.
December 20, 1980, Tangerine Bowl, Orlando, Florida 35 – Maryland 20 – I mention this one because two of the participants became much better known for things they did off the field later one. Florida’s leading receiver was Cris Collinsworth, who caught eight passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Maryland’s quarterback (that’s right, quarterback) was Mike Tice, who not only played tight end in the NFL for many years, but later became head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
December 22, 1984, Sun Bowl, El Paso, Maryland 28 – Tennessee 27 – Though Maryland had an entirely different roster and a different coach in Bobby Ross, it was still nice to win on the same field where Claiborne’s team got demolished six years earlier. And the team that had come from 31-0 down to win at Miami six weeks earlier, pulled off another great comeback behind Frank Reich. He had come off the bench to replace the ineffective Stan Gelbaugh to win the Miami game. This time, in his last college game, he saved the best for last. Trailing 21-0 at halftime, Reich led the Terps to 22 unanswered points in the third quarter and capped off the win by engineering a five minute drive that ended with a Rick Badanjek touchdown with just over two and a half minutes to play.
January 2, 2002, Orange Bowl, Pro Player Stadium, Miami, Florida 56 – Maryland 23 – Not only was this Maryland’s first appearance in a bowl in a dozen years, it was a complete surprise they were even in what was called a “BCS Bowl” in the first place. In Ralph Friedgen’s first year, the goal was just to get to any bowl. But they rolled to a 10-1 regular season behind quarterback Shaun Hill, who’s still in the NFL. Still they were no match for Steve Spurrier’s Gators. He benched starting quarterback Rex Grossman for the first half and went with Brock Berlin. The two of them combined to throw for 456 yards. Days later, Spurrier stayed at Friedgen’s house while he was being interviewed for the Redskins job. Grossman also later found his way to Redskins Park and many of us wish neither one did.
January 1, 2004, Alltell Stadium, Jacksonville, Maryland 41 – West Virginia 7 – Quarterback Scott McBrien, who walked on at Maryland after being benched at West Virginia, couldn’t have picked a better way to end his career. McBrien threw for 381 yards, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. Maryland finished the year ranked 17th at 10-3. It was their third straight and last 10 win season.
December 30, 2008, Humanitarian Bowl, Boise, Maryland 42 – Nevada 35 – Hard as it is to believe, seven Maryland players found something in Boise attractive enough to break curfew for. All seven received suspensions from Friedgen, including running back Da’Rel Scott, who sat out the first two and a half quarters. But when he got in, he was ready to roll. Scott ran for 174 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns. Nevada may have won the game if their quarterback, the WAC player of the year, hadn’t sprained his ankle in the first half. His name? Colin Kaepernick. The offense he ran was called “the pistol” and looked a lot like the one Robert Griffin III ran for the Redskins four years later.
December 29, 2010, Military Bowl, RFK Stadium, Maryland 51 – East Carolina 20 – As Friedgen put it, “If you have to go out, this is the best way to do it.” Friedgen didn’t want to go out. New athletic director Kevin Anderson fired him despite the fact Friedgen was ACC coach of the year! He went into the game knowing it would be his last game at Maryland. In 10 years on the job, Friedgen rang up a record of 75-50 with a 5-2 record in bowls.
December 30, 2014, Foster Farms Bowl, Levi Stadium, Santa Clara, Stanford 45 – Maryland 21 – Getting this bowl was the high water mark for Randy Edsall in his four and a half year run at Maryland. The Terps had beaten Michigan and won at Penn State for the first time ever. They took a 7-5 record into this game, which Stanford and it’s fan base apparently had little interest in, despite the fact it took place only 11 miles from the Stanford campus. On a cold and windy night in front of mostly empty seats, Stanford rolled up 414 yards of offense. Kevin Hogan, who played a Gonzaga, threw for 189 yards and two touchdowns in the Cardinal blowout. Halfway through the following season, Edsall was fired.
So it’s on to the Quick Lane Bowl. Who knows? Maybe it’s the start of something big.