Terps land with a thud

FSU's quick-strike offense hands UM first loss, 52-31

Four turnovers, Rix's passing doom Maryland

October 28, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The door had been open for weeks, the one leading to an Atlantic Coast Conference championship, and a possible berth in a Bowl Championship Series game.

Even as the sun began to set over Doak Campbell Stadium last night, light continued to peek through for the unbeaten No. 10 Maryland Terrapins, who were locked in a tie game with league power Florida State entering the fourth quarter.

Then, as the No. 19 Seminoles displayed their superiority in the things that matter in the game of football - namely speed, speed and more speed - the door shut. Hard.

Just as it had in the first half, Florida State finished strong at the end of the second, taking advantage of Maryland errors to score 21 fourth-quarter points and run away with a 52-31 victory yesterday.

The Terrapins (7-1, 5-1 ACC), charmed and opportunistic for seven games and part of their eighth, discovered the limits of those qualities during their first loss of the season as Florida State quarterback Chris Rix threw for 350 yards and five touchdowns. Three of those scoring tosses went to wide receiver Talman Gardner, who had 140 yards on six catches.

The last of those - with Gardner catching the ball over first-time starting cornerback Dennard Wilson from 28 yards out - gave Florida State (5-2, 4-1) the lead for good at 38-31 with 12:28 to go in the game.

"They made plays when they had to make them," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, after a defeat that will drop his team from its No. 8 spot in the BCS standings and created a logjam atop the ACC, with Maryland, Florida State and North Carolina all having one defeat. "We had opportunities and we didn't make the plays."

That assessment didn't account completely for the difference, though. Maryland had four turnovers to Florida State's one.

Not only were the gaffes numerous, but they also happened in situations where they could do the most damage, near the Terps' end zone. Three of them were followed shortly by Seminoles touchdowns.

The last came when Maryland's star tailback, Bruce Perry, was stripped of the ball, which was picked up by Florida State rover Rufus Brown at the Maryland 19.

The play added to what had been an uncharacteristically rough day for Perry, who fumbled twice and had several drops. It also led to the fourth of Rix's touchdown passes, this time a 22-yard scoring pass to Javon Walker with 11:17 left in the game, which created a 45-31 lead and basically killed Maryland's chances.

"This was a big game, and we can't make mistakes in big games," said Perry, who was limited to 67 yards rushing, 78 below his average. "Unfortunately we did, and we didn't capitalize on the opportunities we had."

"Today was another indication that you can't win when you turn the ball over - Maryland turned it over," said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who picked up his 320th career victory. "We did, too, but not as much. There's no telling what would have happened if they hadn't turned it over."

The mistake-free Terps controlled the first quarter, quickly staking an edge in the field-advantage battle as their punter Brooks Barnard pinned Florida State inside its own 5-yard line.

Then Maryland took over at the line of scrimmage, challenging the traditionally strong Seminoles' run defense to stop its ground game, using its fullbacks to carry the ball more often than it had this season.

One of them, James Lynch, took an inside handoff from quarterback Shaun Hill and rambled 65 yards for a touchdown to give the Terps a 7-0 lead with 1:42 left in the first quarter.

Then Maryland got the favor of a poorly thrown pass off a fake punt by Chance Gwaltney and took over at Florida State's 42. FSU defensive tackle Darnell Dockett committed a personal foul that took the Terps out of a long-yardage situation, and helped sustain a drive that ended with Marc Riley's 1-yard run for a 14-0 lead with 6:16 left in the second quarter.

But just as one prepared to be shocked by the ease with which the Terps were pulling away, Florida State called the bluff as halftime approached.

Maryland's pass defense, without top cornerback Tony Okanlawon, came under attack from Seminoles quarterback Chris Rix. Rix, who left the game earlier with a cut chin, re-entered and was perfect on four passes during a 73-yard drive aided by a roughing-the-passer call on Randy Starks.

The last was Talman Gardner's 16-yard touchdown catch with 4:45 left in the half. That was followed, 13 seconds later, by Michael Boulware's interception of a Hill pass, returned 23 yards for a score that tied the game with 4:32 left.

Maryland, whose offense suddenly stalled, fell victim to another Florida State drive, this one sparked by a 51-yard Craphonso Thorpe reception to the Terps' 9. One play later, Gardner caught his second scoring pass on the game, giving the Seminoles a 21-14 lead with 1:48 to go in the half.

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