Terrapins fade to black
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Having scripted one of the nation's more compelling redemptive stories, Coach Ralph Friedgen witnessed a week's worth of buildup for Maryland's most anticipated night of the season. And an impressive collection of rowdy fans flocked to Byrd Stadium on Saturday hoping to catch a climatic scene in Maryland's feel-good season.
They saw a back-and-forth drama, only without the ending they wanted. On the game's decisive play with 54 seconds remaining, fourth and seven from the Florida State 19, Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien threw high over the middle. Instead of a potential game-winning touchdown pass, it turned into a 96-yard game-sealing interception return for a touchdown by Seminoles safety Nick Moody.
For the second time in three seasons, Maryland lost a high-stakes, late-November home game to Florida State. This year's 30-16 loss before a spirited crowd of 48,115 may have been closer than the 34-point defeat in 2008, but the consequence is the same: Maryland (7-4, 4-3) will not win the ACC's Atlantic Division.
"I'm pretty proud of my players. They fought with everything we had," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said, later adding: "This team is growing. We're getting better. We're going to beat one of these teams one day. We're very close. I see it."
Instead of playing in the Orange Bowl, as players long dreamed about, they will finish the season in a less glamorous bowl game, maybe in Nashville or Charlotte but more likely in Shreveport, La., or close to home in Washington.
The Terrapins have yet to beat an ACC team with a winning record. They will get one final chance when they look to spoil North Carolina State's division title hopes in Saturday's regular season finale. If Maryland wins, Florida State wins the division.
After living a charmed life for much of the season, an uncharacteristic fumble, an interception that should have been ruled an incomplete pass and a fluke special teams miscue derailed Maryland's hopes Saturday.
The Terrapins held a 16-13 third-quarter lead after Travis Baltz's third field goal. But the Seminoles responded when quarterback Christian Ponder completed a pass over the middle to receiver Bert Reed, who weaved his way 44 yards for the go-ahead score and watched cornerback Cameron Chism fall in pursuit.
"A couple guys fell down, slipped," Friedgen said. "That's going to happen when you play those guys. They have tremendous athletes. It just takes one play."
Florida State place kicker Dustin Hopkins, whose 55-yard field goal beat Clemson last week, missed two field goals Saturday, including a 51-yard attempt in the fourth quarter.
But Maryland could not take advantage of the miss. O'Brien, scrambling from pressure to his left, threw low in the direction of wide receiver Adrian Cannon. Cornerback Greg Reid dived forward to make the interception at the Maryland 44. A replay appeared to show the ball hit the ground, but the call on the field was upheld following an official review.
Still, Maryland forced Florida State to punt. The wobbly line-drive kick hit Cameron Chism in the back, and Florida State's Mister Alexander recovered at the Maryland 17 with 6 minutes 11 seconds to play. Hopkins tacked on a 34-yard field goal to give the Seminoles a seven-point lead with just less than five minutes to play.