Today was worse than Maryland had feared--not top-ranked Florida State's 49-10 Atlantic Coast Conference rout so much as losing quarterback Latrez Harrison to a left ankle injury late in the first quarter.
The significance of freshman Harrison's injury was long range, because he almost certainly would not have made a difference against the Seminoles (10-0, 8-0) in the first start of his career. Harrison was thrust into the starting role when Calvin McCall suffered a ligament tear in his left knee during the loss to North Carolina State last week.
Maryland Coach Ron Vanderlinden said Harrison's injury was a high ankle sprain and his availability would be determined "day-to-day" for the season finale Saturday at home against Virginia, a game the Terrapins (5-5, 2-5) must win to become eligible for a bowl bid.
Harrison said X-rays taken at halftime confirmed the sprain. However, in a brief interview on the field almost immediately after Maryland lost for the fourth time in five games, Harrison said: "I think I cracked a bone."
Limping while wearing a contraption that kept his ankle iced, Harrison said he would play against the Cavaliers. "I'm not going to let anybody stop me from playing this game," he said.
Still, the injury hardly bodes well for a player whose strengths depend so heavily on being able to make sharp cuts. He was elevated ahead of fifth-year senior Trey Evans after McCall's season-ending injury and Evans was intercepted three times in relief today when there still was some doubt about the outcome.
Vanderlinden said two other starters are uncertain for Virginia. Defensive end Peter Timmins suffered "a really bad" pinched nerve in his neck and cornerback Lewis Sanders had a groin injury "that could be pretty serious."
The Seminoles were as sharp as expected, converting an interception and blocked punt into touchdowns that lifted them to a 21-3 lead slightly less than four minutes before halftime. Quarterback Chris Weinke threw six touchdown passes, all before the third quarter ended, and wide receiver Peter Warrick caught three while becoming the ACC's career leader in reception yardage.
They clinched their 13th consecutive 10-win season and looked ready for next week's regular season finale against No. 4 Florida. A victory in that game will send them to the Sugar Bowl for a chance to win the national championship.
Warrick, whose arrest on a felony charge kept him out of two games and most likely cost him the chance to win the Heisman Trophy, did not speak to reporters. In a statement issued by the school's sports information office he said, in part: "I came back [for his senior season] to try and win a national championship. We've got ourselves in position to do that so far and that's what I'm happy about."
With the Virginia game so important, it was a surprise that Maryland tailback LaMont Jordan was playing late in the fourth quarter with the Seminoles ahead by 46 points. With 169 yards, Jordan came within 33 yards of the Maryland single-season record of 1,359 set by Charlie Wysocki in 1980.
"You play your best players," Vanderlinden said. "We put a lot of second-team players in late, more than they did."
Harrison's opening series went well, with his first pass showcasing his ability. On second and eight from his 22, Harrison bought time after being flushed from the pocket and, with linebacker Theon Rackley in his face, flipped a completion to Jordan for 16 yards. However, a Florida State defender rolled on Harrison's ankle during that series. Three plays into the next series, after being hit by linebacker Brian Allen as he was completing an off-balance effort to tight end John Waerig, his day was finished.
Shortly after Evans was intercepted by safety Derrick Gibson midway through the second quarter, Weinke completed a 16-yard pass and later hit Warrick in the left side of the end zone from the 9.
On Maryland's next possession, 250-pound David Warren broke through the middle and blocked Brooks Barnard's punt out of bounds at the Terrapins 9. On third down from the 6, split end Ron Dugans put an inside move on safety Rod Littles and skipped into the end zone with Weinke's pass.
Another interception, when cornerback Clevan Thomas outleaped wide receiver Scooter Monroe, led to Weinke's 30-yard touchdown pass to flanker Atrews Bell and a 28-3 halftime lead.
When Warrick caught a 26-yard touchdown pass to increase Florida State's lead to 35-3 early in the third, he became the ACC's leading career receiver with 3,399 yards, surpassing the record of 3,379 yards set by N.C. State's Torry Holt.
Following a 77-yard kickoff return by Jermaine Arrington, Evans hit tight end Eric James with a one-yard touchdown pass with 5 minutes 51 seconds left.