This post is th second of a series of posts sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 11.
This whole series about our Maryland fanhood and all that has a funny qualifier attached to it: it's supposed to be about football. And if you ask any Maryland fan, they'll probably tell you that Maryland is a basketball school first. So when the "all-time favorite team" question popped up, it was pretty simple to me: the 2002 NCAA Champion team with Juan, Lonny, Wilcox, Byron, and Steve. I'm guessing that all but the most seasoned of you would probably agree.
In fact, I'm not entirely sure that needs full explanation. I never really experienced a national championship other than that - my teams, pro and college, don't do much national competing. And I've never found a feeling to match it. Simply because of that, I feel a connection to that team, and they're undoubtedly the favorite team I can remember.
But like I just said, this whole series is sponsored by a football video game, not a basketball one (they're not making those anymore, unfortunately). So I feel somewhat obligated to figure out the favorite football team, too.
For someone like me, who became a Maryland fan in the '90s, the options are somewhat limited. Maryland football has had some legendary periods, and my generation really didn't get to experience too many of them. If it wasn't for Ralph Friedgen's first three years, football success would be completely foreign to me.
But thanks to Ralph, it's not. In fact, I remember it well. The Orange Bowl team would always be tough to top. But what I remember most about it, for some reason, are the two losses, not the ten spectacular wins; I specifically remember being out of town for the Florida State game, seeing Maryland go up 14-0, leaving the TV, and then hearing the final score, shocked and disappointed. (Well, that's not entirely true; I do vividly remember Nick Novak's game-winner against Georgia Tech and the great N.C. State game, but those two games always stick out in my memory for some unfortunate reason).
So while they might've found more success than any other team and were certainly lovable for their grit and unexpected success (and they hold the distinction of being Bruce Perry's only 100% healthy year), the battle for team that I love the most is actually a dogfight between the 2002 and 2003 teams.
2003 has a lot of things going for them: an expanded role for Steve Suter, the wonderful emergence of D'Qwell Jackson, and the dual demolishing of West Virginia. But 2002 is just too tough to overcome: Scott McBrien, Suter's 4 punt return TDs, the Tennessee bowl game, and - perhaps most importantly - E.J. Henderson's spectacular senior season.
The 2002-03 version of the Terps were, looking back on it, a very talented, fun team to watch, and their swagger only helped. A quick overview of the 02-03 Terps: McBrien, Suter, Henderson, the unexpected star of Chris Downs, Scooter Monroe, Jafar Williams, Dominique Foxworth, Madieu Williams, Curome Cox, Brooks Barnard, and Nick Novak. The only thing that could make that group better would be a healthy Bruce Perry. It's a who's-who of the most loved, best players of the past decade.
There are just too many damn likable players on that team. Throw in 11 wins and the Peach Bowl - I'll never forget Scott McBrien's naked bootleg to kick off the scoring - as well as a few spectacular games, like another N.C. State comeback (this one may be my favorite, actually) and destroying West Virginia, and this is my favorite team of all-time.
So now its your turn: what's your favorite Maryland team of all-time? For the sake of discussion, you can do football or basketball...or both, if you want to.