How Terps exposed top-ranked Seminoles as a second-rate defense

JOHN EISENBERG

November 07, 1993|By JOHN EISENBERG

COLLEGE PARK -- After Maryland backup quarterback Kevin Foley led a 95-yard touchdown drive early in the second quarter yesterday at Byrd Stadium, he was met on the sideline by starting quarterback Scott Milanovich.

"Overrated!" they shrieked happily to each other, summing up the startling consensus they had reached regarding the much-admired defense of top-ranked Florida State.

Surprise, surprise: On a damp afternoon when everyone figured the Seminoles might win by 100 points, they just might have blown the national title.

No, they didn't ruin their unbeaten season against the bottom-shelf Terps. Get real. They were easy winners, 49-20. Even without injured quarterback Charlie Ward, they scored touchdowns on seven of nine possessions against Maryland's famously accommodating defense.

But what happened when Maryland had the ball will haunt the Seminoles for the rest of the season, beginning next week at Notre Dame. The Terps absolutely bamboozled a defense that was previously thought impenetrable, or very nearly.

"We were just 11 guys running around like a pickup game," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said.

Coaches tend to exaggerate, but not this time. The Terps put together six drives of more than 50 yards, three longer than 75. They compiled 24 first downs and 453 yards of offense. Their line opened a spate of enormous holes, through which Maryland's Allen Williams rushed for 118 yards, by far the most any back had gained against Florida State all season. The two Terps quarterbacks completed 21 of 28 passes for 313 yards.

Basically, the Seminoles barely stopped Maryland in the last three quarters. The Terps were too lacking in experience and talent -- and, of course, defense -- to make it a serious upset threat, but they succeeded in showing the rest of the country that Florida State was beatable.

"I'm sure," Milanovich said, "that Notre Dame will look at the films and try to steal a few things."

What Lou Holtz and the Irish will see will, no doubt, surprise them almost as much as it surprised both teams and the 36,255 in attendance yesterday. The Maryland offense, a portrait of ineptitude through much of October, physically handled a defense that was among the nation's leaders in fewest rushing yards, passing yards and points allowed. What in the world happened?

"We blocked them," Milanovich said. "That's the only explanation. We could run the ball. When you can do that on a team like that, it opens up the passing game."

The Terps' offensive line was in tatters; three starters could barely practice during the week. And starting back Mark Mason came up limping, transferring the ball-carrying load to Williams, an obscure junior -- he had but five carries previously -- whom the coaches had envisioned as a defensive back as recently as last month. It was hardly a blueprint for success.

But the linemen had their game of the year, and Williams was colossal, dipping, darting and shouldering tacklers. Who was that helmeted man? A native of Thomasville, Ga., he grew up around the corner from Charlie Ward and was being recruited by Florida State when a drunk driver pulled in front of him one day. His pickup truck rolled over eight times. He was in a coma for three days, he said.

When the Division I schools backed away, he went to Georgia Military, a junior college. Florida recruited him, but the Terps got him. Off yesterday's performance, you can probably pencil him in as next year's back.

He gained chunks of yards again and again on quick-hitting counter and draw plays right up the middle. The aggressive Seminoles linebackers, supposedly the nation's best, were so close to the line that they couldn't react to the misdirection.

"We had them frustrated," Williams said. "They didn't say much, but you could see it in their eyes. We were moving at will, up and down the field. They were shaking their heads. They were saying, 'How can they be moving on us like this?' "

The Terps moved on Florida State last year, too, but only after the Seminoles had run up a big lead. Yesterday, the Terps were as close as 28-20 early in the third quarter.

Their lack of defense drained the game of suspense, but they were more than willing to accept the moral victory. "After the year we've had, to play the No. 1 team this well, it's a good feeling in the locker room," Milanovich said.

Of course, it's possible the Seminoles were just bored and had a bad day. But the way they were handled yesterday will only

encourage Notre Dame. SuperTeam they were not.

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