Terps' tallest ACC hurdle is 1st No. 5 Fla. State poses huge road challenge

September 13, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Ron Vanderlinden went into Lincoln when Nebraska had Turner Gill and Irving Fryar. He's won at Michigan, despite 104,000 cheering for the Wolverines. He's worked up schemes that stopped Barry Switzer's best in Norman, Okla., and gone to Austin when Texas football was as hot as the weather.

After two decades as an assistant in the Big Eight and Big Ten, Vanderlinden finally faces Florida State, the most dominant college team of the 1990s.

"It's one of the great challenges of my career," Vanderlinden said. "Florida State is not only the elite of the conference, they might be the best team in the country."

Vanderlinden has been talking about Florida State being where Maryland wants to be since his hiring last December. No one listened to his hyperbole about the opponent before a season-opening, 21-14 loss to Ohio, but this time he's not exaggerating, and what's scary is that the Seminoles are supposed to be rebuilding.

Today's game at Doak Campbell Stadium (3: 30 p.m., Chs. 2, 7) will be the ACC opener for both.

While the Terps had an upsetting opener, the No. 5 Seminoles went to the Los Angeles Coliseum and beat Southern California. Who used more first-year freshmen? Try the Seminoles. Maryland played six, compared with seven for Florida State.

The Seminoles were made younger by the NFL draft, and by their behavior. Right tackle Tra Thomas will serve a one-game suspension today for a violation of team rules, and he's the 10th Florida State player to either be in legal trouble or face discipline this year.

Coach Bobby Bowden doesn't seem to worry because the flow of talent doesn't ebb.

If quarterback Thad Busby continues to struggle throwing the ball, the Seminoles will turn to Dan Kendra, who was the national prep Player of the Year in 1994. The third-team, weak-side linebacker is Tommy Polley, a redshirt freshman who was The Sun's Athlete of the Year in 1995-96 for Dunbar High.

"With all of the guys they lost in the NFL draft [seven], and with all of the off-field incidents, they're still tough top to bottom," Vanderlinden said. "You study their personnel, and there's not one guy you can say 'we found something.' Our offensive linemen are playing against an NFL player on every play."

It's Florida State, with an unprecedented 10 straight 10-win seasons, against Maryland, which last won more than six games 1985.

"They're as good a team as I've lined up against," Vanderlinden said. "Let's go take a swing at them."

Pub Date: 9/13/97

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