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Suter suited to be big-game suitor for Terps

December 31, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Steve Suter has a way of keeping things in personal perspective.

In the world of the University of Maryland receiver, things may not be perfect, but it's still an improvement over the past.

"I had never been part of a big game before I got here," Suter said. "Now in my second year and I've got the chance to play in two big bowl games."

So Suter is taking Thursday's Gator Bowl against West Virginia seriously. Heading to Jacksonville, Fla., on New Year's Day isn't exactly Utopia, but it beats the alternative.

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Like sitting at home for the holidays.

Early in the season, Suter and the Terrapins looked like they were all going to spend bowl season balking in a Winter Wonderland, thanks to an 0-2 start.

But Maryland turned it all around to earn the right to play West Virginia by playing its best football in November.

The early losses took Maryland out of the hunt for the national championship, making the Gator Bowl the absolute best the Terps could have hoped for.

"We looked at the end of the season as our playoffs to get to the Gator Bowl," Suter said. "The (Bowl Championship Series) was out of our hands. We are looking at the Gator Bowl as our championship game."

Maryland overcame the 0-2 start and early nagging injuries to quarterback Scott McBrien (groin), tailback Bruce Perry (ankle) and Suter (ankle and knee) - three of the major cogs in the Terps' offense - to pull out of what started to look like a freefall.

Maryland came into the season with extremely high expectations. The Terps had 21 returning seniors, 14 of them are starters. Maryland also featured the return of its entire defensive secondary.

McBrien was touted as a coach on the field and Suter was not only a huge kick returning threat, but was considered a game-breaker at receiver.

Maryland looked to have it all, but didn't show it in opening games at Northern Illinois and Florida State. The Terps came back to win nine of their last 10 games to finish second in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is earmarked for the Gator Bowl berth.

"This all made us (what we are)," Suter said. "We started out in a hole, but we showed a lot of character. We didn't go down without a fight and kept swinging. Everyone talks about last year, but we had a great season this year."

Suter showed his drive to get Maryland back into the national spotlight. The junior suffered a slightly torn knee ligament heading into the North Carolina game.

Before that game, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said there was a possibility that Suter would need surgery and would miss two weeks of the season, but everyone was waiting to see how the receiver reacted to treatment.

Suter played that game and the rest of the season, accounting for nine catches and 147 yards in the final four games.

"The knee hurts, but I'm playing through it," Suter said. "I'll probably need surgery after the season."

But because of the Gator Bowl, Suter is willing to put his personal health on hold.

It's all a matter of perspective to Steve Suter.

"I was never in a championship game in high school," he said. "This is a great opportunity. The stage is big and I'm going to enjoy it all. We just want to win the game. No one wants to end the season with a loss."

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