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Florida State Emphatically Ends Maryland's ACC Title Hopes

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By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 23, 2008

A day that began with Maryland officials sneaking peaks at ACC scores ended with players cringing at the sight of two Byrd Stadium scoreboards, a snapshot reflecting a lost opportunity in a ghastly home finale they won't soon forget.

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Florida State's 37-3 victory over Maryland last night, coupled with Boston College's victory over Wake Forest earlier yesterday, eliminated Maryland from ACC title contention. In a span of eight hours, the 22nd-ranked Terrapins went from division favorite to non-factor.

After the game, Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen, appearing beaten and talking in a solemn tone, said it "boggles my mind that we can play so poorly in such a big game." Friedgen placed the blame squarely on his players, saying they "did not compete, did not play with any effort."

A spirited crowd of 51,620, who were asked to wear black to create a "blackout," braved near freezing temperatures to cheer on a team that for three months has baffled fans and coaches alike with its unpredictable, erratic personality. And in one of the most significant games in Friedgen's eight-year tenure, the Terrapins (7-4, 4-3 ACC) reassumed their non-competitive persona, looked overmatched in every respect and lost their first home game of the season in decisive fashion.

"It is very depressing," said Maryland center Edwin Williams, one of 30 seniors playing in their final home game.

Maryland's offensive line, which had carried the Terrapins in the previous game against North Carolina, could not contain Florida State's speedy pass rushers, who sacked Chris Turner six times, five in the first half. The Seminoles (8-3, 5-3) battered Turner from every angle and hurried and harassed the junior more than any opponent had this season.

Turner, who said he was hurting a "little bit" after the game, said Florida State's defensive linemen were probably the fastest he has seen this season, but said defensive players "played dirty. They take a lot of cheap shots."

Turner, who had not thrown an interception since Oct. 4, threw two. Running back Da'Rel Scott fumbled twice. And the Terrapins never challenged in a game their seniors viewed as a potential "perfect ending" to their careers.

Williams did not feel effort was as big a problem as execution, adding: "Everyone knew what the stakes were. When you have bad communication at home, that's bad. I didn't expect so many turnovers and mental errors. Things you would expect in the first game rather than the 11th."

The small pockets of Seminoles fans had plenty to cheer about during a first half in which their team forced three turnovers and took a commanding 21-0 lead. They had even more reason to rejoice when they first spotted a late-arriving guest, junior safety Myron Rolle, who hours earlier had won a Rhodes Scholarship.

After learning at 5:25 p.m. that he had won, Rolle took a charter flight to Baltimore and arrived at Byrd Stadium at 8:34. Florida State fans gave Rolle a standing ovation as he approached the Seminoles sideline.

Maryland's sideline offered a far different tenor. Trailing 21-0 late in the first half, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey stood in the middle of a team huddle, pumping his feet, jumping and emphatically imploring teammates to respond. His rally cry fell on deaf ears.

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