COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland staged an unannounced
promotion at Byrd Stadium yesterday: two games for the price of one.
In the opener, the Terps took a halftime lead on defending national champion Florida State, something no other Atlantic Coast Conference team had accomplished since the Seminoles joined the league in 1992.
Unfortunately for Maryland, fourth-ranked Florida State awoke and outclassed the Terps in a radically different second half. The result was a 52-20 Seminoles victory before 38,014 customers who were alternately delighted and confused by the reversal of roles.
Florida State (2-0) outscored Maryland 35-0 and out-gained the Terps 402 yards to 52 in the second half, when the Seminoles punted once and their defense held on six straight third-down conversion attempts.
Despite the collapse, the Maryland (0-2) players said they felt good about themselves. The Terps played with purpose a week after an aimless season-opening loss at Duke.
"I couldn't say enough about our effort, especially in the first half," coach Mark Duffner said. "We challenged our players in practice this week, and we did about as good as we can. The whole game plan involved being as aggressive as we possibly can."
A week after the Terps waited on their heels for things to happen, they were on their toes throughout a first half that ended with them ahead, 20-17. Incredibly, the lead easily could have been 27-10, as the Seminoles' first touchdown came after a 23-yard pass on third-and-goal from the 24 against a Maryland blitz. Later in the second quarter, a wide-open Jermaine Lewis couldn't hold on to a bomb from Kevin Foley.
In the first half, the offense kept the Seminoles' speed in check with screens and shovel passes; the defense had two interceptions for the first time in two years; and the special teams blocked a punt and got two field goals from Joe O'Donnell. The Seminoles chipped in to the Terps' cause with seven penalties.
Even without All-America linebacker Derrick Brooks and four others, all suspended, Florida State's superior talent and depth -- Maryland used senior center Jamie Bragg at defensive tackle, for instance -- took over in the second half. Even though the Seminoles came back strong, they were disturbed by their first-half showing.
"I don't know what it is about this place," said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, whose team scored the last three touchdowns in a 49-20 victory here last year.
"The thing we couldn't understand was why Maryland looked so bad against Duke. I saw that game, and thought this one would get ugly, but the only thing ugly about it was the first half. They had us so off balance, and we couldn't handle it. We beat them, but not because we out-coached them. We out-personnelled them."
Maryland's run-and-shoot offense could muster only three first downs in eight second-half possessions, but it was sharp on the game-opening possession, when a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive established the early tempo in the Terps' favor. Junior quarterback Scott Milanovich completed five short passes on the drive, which ended with a shovel pass to freshman Brian Underwood for a 7-yard touchdown.
A failed onside kick set up the Seminoles in prime field position, but the Terps' defense delivered more good news, limiting Florida State to a field goal on its first possession. The Seminoles' second drive also stalled, and Richard Roberts blocked the punt, leading to a 27-yard field goal by O'Donnell.
Safety Wade Inge's interception of Danny Kanell and 26-yard return set up a 30-yard field goal by O'Donnell.
Florida State, which ended with 731 yards, finally got in the preferred mode with touchdown drives of 90 and 87 yards -- a 23-yard pass from Kanell to Wayne Messam on third-and-goal from the Terps' 24 kept the first alive -- that put the Seminoles on top 17-13.
Maryland had two more gasps of life left.
Sophomore Geroy Simon, who turns 19 today, broke a tackle at '' the Seminoles' 25-yard line and turned a screen pass into a 38-yard touchdown and a 20-17 lead with 51 seconds remaining in the half.
Florida State moved 75 yards in 31 seconds and faced a third down at the Terps' 7, but A.J. Johnson preserved the halftime lead by intercepting a Kanell pass intended for Kez McCorvey.
It was only the second time since the start of the 1993 season that Maryland led at the half, but the Terps did nothing to hold on to it in the second.
The Seminoles effortlessly moved 80 and 89 yards for touchdowns in their first two possessions of the second half, going ahead for good on a 6-yard run Rock Preston. Down 31-20 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Terps were alive on the scoreboard, but the offense went nowhere before and after the Seminoles lost a fumble.
Florida State scored three touchdowns in the last 12 minutes and was driving for a fourth as time expired, as the Terps' already-lacking tackling wasn't up to catching the Seminoles. Kanell, who had a slow start for the second straight week, completed 28 of 44 for 427 yards. Zack Crockett, a senior fullback who red-shirted last year, ran for 123 yards, and sophomore tailback Warrick Dunn rushed for 104.
The result was another statistical beating that left the Terps' defense on a pace worse than last year's, when it set an NCAA record for yards allowed.
"The difference between last week and this week was emotion," said Bragg, the two-way lineman. "At Duke, we didn't show up as a team, but if we can get this kind of effort week in and week out, we're going to win a lot of games."
NEXT FOR MARYLAND:
Who: West Virginia
When: Saturday, at Morgantown, W. Va.
2& Yesterday: Lost to Rutgers, 17-12.