SAN FRANCISCO Maryland quarterback Chris Turner is a crazy-haired, laid-back California native. He's also one of the few Terrapins who had ever been to the Bay Area before this week's trip out west for the Emerald Bowl.
And though the Terps will be following Turner's lead on the field tonight against Oregon State, they don't think much of him as a tour guide.
"We were on the plane flying in, and I was going, 'Look, there's the Hollywood sign, guys!"' said Turner, a sophomore who became the starter midway through Maryland's injury-plagued season.
Hollywood is a good 300 miles away from the San Francisco Giants' waterfront ballpark, but Turner hopes the Terrapins (6-6, 3-5 ACC) can create a little showtime in a tough postseason matchup against the Beavers (8-4, 6-3 Pac-10).
"I wasn't sitting anywhere near (Turner), so he couldn't lie to me," offensive lineman Andrew Crummey said. "It's a new experience for most guys to be out here, but we're still focused on finishing the right way."
The Terps embraced the chance to travel cross-country to end a disappointing season that began with conference title hopes. Coach Ralph Friedgen, who's won his last three bowl games since losing the Orange Bowl in his first season at his alma mater, hopes Maryland's injury woes and a string of tough losses will be tempered by a strong finish.
"It's been a journey, and we've had so many injuries and disappointments, so many games we could have won," Friedgen said. "Then there were games nobody expected us to win, and we did. This team wants to win very badly, because it would make us 7-6 and maybe salvage our season."
While Maryland has outscored its last three bowl opponents 96-17, Friedgen's rebuilding project has slowed after starting with three consecutive 10-win seasons and an ACC championship from 2001-03. Maryland has just 25 wins in the four seasons since.
"We expected so much more out of the season than what happened," said Crummey, who has recovered from a broken leg in time to finish his stellar career in a bowl game. "Let's just show what we have show how dominant Maryland is."
Though the Terrapins are wide-eyed on just their school's second trip to California in 115 years, Oregon State already knows the Bay Area quite well. The Beavers got their most impressive win across the water in Berkeley in October, knocking off then-No. 2 Cal 31-28 early in their 6-1 finish to the regular season.
The Beavers have their own regrets about a good regular season that could have been great, but coach Mike Riley figures it's a fine reward to get the chance to line up against an unfamiliar opponent in a town close enough to Corvallis to draw thousands of Oregon State fans.
"This is really what the bowl season should be," said Riley, who's unbeaten in three bowl appearances with his hometown school. "It's a reward for these guys to come to one of the great cities in America, and they get the chance to play a team they don't know in front of a big national audience."
Both teams began bowl preparations with no knowledge of each other. Friedgen is impressed by Yvenson Bernard, Oregon State's talented tailback, while Riley gained respect for the Maryland defense led by junior linebacker Erin Henderson, who could be headed to the NFL after the game.
The top matchup could be Oregon State's stingy run defense, ranked second in the nation, against tailbacks Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball in Maryland's effective rushing attack.
"As a team player, I just want to go out on a good note and finishing strong," Bernard said. "The great thing about this team is its heart, and we just want to show it off one more time."