Florida State 35,
-- The Maryland Terrapins played 14 flawless minutes in this city that has been so unkind to them for so many years. Never mind that they were playing with a backup quarterback, without one of their leading rushers, against the nation's 10th-ranked team, in a stadium in which they had never won. In the second quarter on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, Maryland was the bully and Florida State the helpless runt.
Memories of that quarter will have to suffice for the Terps during the 14 days until their next game; the rest of their 35-27 loss was mostly forgettable.
After leading at halftime for the first time in their eight trips to Doak Campbell Stadium, the Terps were outscored 21-6 in the second half. As a result, their hopes of playing in the ACC championship game were finally extinguished. Maryland is now 4-4 and 2-3 in the ACC and will need to win two of its final three games to qualify for a bowl.
"We're not going to be any good unless we learn to finish things and put people away," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said. "And it's about time we learned that."
In the final 14 minutes of the second quarter, the Terps scored 21 unanswered points against this perennial power; in the rest of the game, they managed two field goals by Dan Ennis. In the second quarter, Maryland held the ball for nearly 10 minutes; in the rest of the game, it was dominated in time of possession. In the second quarter, the Seminoles (7-1, 5-1) managed just 65 yards of offense; in the rest of the game, they waltzed their way to 335.
And most importantly, in the second quarter, Maryland's default quarterback Joel Statham, who was filling in for injured starter Sam Hollenbach, was as effective as virtually any player in the nation. And in the rest of the game, he looked more like, well, Joel Statham.
Statham didn't complete a pass in the first quarter, and before those 15 minutes were up, he was replaced by Hollenbach, who had been nursing an injured left shoulder. But a hard tackle soon chased Hollenbach back to the sideline with back pain; Friedgen said he could have returned if necessary.
And suddenly, down by 14 points, Statham transformed from terrible to terrific, completing 8 of 10 passes for 135 yards in the second quarter. Over three consecutive possessions, he threw for two touchdowns -- his first since the win he engineered against Florida State almost exactly a year ago -- and ran for another, and the Terps surged ahead.
But aside from that wondrous stretch, Statham completed just 7 of 19 passes for 42 yards.
Maryland was still ahead by six early in the fourth quarter until the Seminoles embarked on an 80-yard scoring drive, helped in large part by a pair of 15-yard pass interference calls against cornerback Gerrick McPhearson.
The Terps' ensuing drive ended with a moment straight out of Statham's rocky 2004 campaign: an interception thrown at the most crushingly inopportune moment.
"That's one of the things that I've been working on since last year," Statham said. "And then I had to go off and do it in a critical moment of the game like that."
Florida State then rammed the ball into the Maryland defense: six straight rushing plays netted 37 yards, a final touchdown and an eight-point lead.
"I thought our defense played their guts out the whole game and just battled every darn down, and then it seemed like we didn't have anything else left," Friedgen said. "And you've got to have something left."
The Terps' final drive advanced into Florida State territory with less than a minute remaining; it ended when Statham was sacked on fourth down.
By that point, any warm and fuzzy thoughts about the second-quarter excellence were long since banished to the land of what-might-have-been, where they nestled up against memories of an earlier fourth-quarter collapse against Clemson.
"You know, they're all great things, but you didn't win the game," Friedgen said, rejecting an opportunity to consider the positives. "I didn't come down here to lose, whether I had my first-team quarterback or my eighth-team quarterback. It's about winning. That's what it's about."
And while the eight-point final margin was the best Maryland had ever managed on the Seminoles' home turf, players described a quiet and unhappy locker room.
"To come up short is just indescribable," said Jo Jo Walker, who caught Statham's final touchdown pass and could have scored another if not for a badly overthrown ball. "We're close. But close is not good enough."
Terrapins Notes: Safety Milton Harris suffered a concussion in the third quarter and was taken to the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. He was released and traveled back to Maryland with his teammates. . . . Running back Keon Lattimore (shoulder) did not travel to Saturday's game.