WASHINGTON — Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen is heading into unemployment as a winner.
Already the Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year, already the engineer of the second-biggest regular season turnaround in the country, Friedgen ended his 10-year run at his alma mater Wednesday with a 51-20 victory over East Carolina in the Military Bowl.
The Terrapins forced four turnovers, and Da’Rel Scott ran for 200 yards.
New Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson announced last week that Friedgen was being fired, effective after the bowl game, with the school buying out the final year of the 63-year-old coach’s contract for $2 million. Friedgen said preparing for the game was like “a slow death,” and he found it hard to hold back his emotions.
He patrolled the Maryland sideline one last time, holding his customary playsheet and wearing a white cap with the word “Terps” in red. Fans held up signs saying “Thanks Ralph” and chanted his name. He got the customary ice-bucket bath from the players with 2½ minutes to play.
Friedgen’s last act was the second-biggest margin of victory in Maryland bowl history as well as the most points the school has scored in a bowl. Friedgen went 5-2 in bowl games at the school.
Scott had second-half touchdown runs of 61 and 91 yards on back-to-back Terrapins offensive plays and posted the school’s first 200-yard rushing game since 2003. D.J. Adams had four short touchdown runs for the Terrapins, who finished 9-4 to give Friedgen a 75-50 mark in his decade at Maryland.
Dominique Davis completed 35 of 57 passes for 268 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for East Carolina (6-7), which committed 15 penalties and had its second lowest point total of the season.
The temperatures were in the mid-40s, a tolerable break from a mostly frozen December in the nation’s capital but nothing like from the balmier destinations Maryland expected after tying for third in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Bowl after bowl bypassed the Terrapins until they were chosen by the Military Bowl with the No. 8 ACC selection, a disappointment caused mainly by concerns about the waning fan base at College Park.
There were even concerns that Terrapins fans would be vastly outnumbered at RFK Stadium, only a few miles from campus, but red and purple appeared just about even among the 38,062, a record turnout for the three-year-old bowl.
The game was supposed to be a shootout from the start — East Carolina came in averaging 38 points per game and allowing 43 — but the Pirates’ no-huddle attack was disjointed all game, and the Terrapins initially failed to take full advantage of prime scoring chances against a defense that had been giving up an 478.8 yards per game — most in the nation.
The first half included 12 penalties, four turnovers, a blocked extra point and a missed 25-yard field goal. The Terrapins scored on a 45-yard touchdown pass from ACC rookie of the year Danny O’Brien to Kevin Dorsey, a 1-yard run by Adams and a 23-yard field goal by Travis Baltz. East Carolina didn’t score until Mike Barbour’s 37-yard field goal with 6:08 left in the half — the longest the Pirates had gone into a game without scoring this season.
The Terrapins began scoring at will in the second half. They added to a 16-3 halftime lead when David Mackall returned a tipped interception 35 yards to East Carolina’s 1, setting up Adams’ second touchdown.
Dwayne Harris’ 36-yard punt return led to East Carolina’s first touchdown, a 20-yard pass to Lance Lewis that made the score 23-10, but the Terrapins responded with a 69-yard drive capped by another touchdown from Adams.
Scott ran up the middle untouched for a 61-yard score on the first play of a drive late in the third quarter, and did virtually the same from 91 yards on the first play of the next drive early in the fourth.
Hours before kickoff, Maryland declared four players academically ineligible for the game. Sitting out were defensive lineman Drew Gloster, offensive lineman Pete White and receivers Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler.