Terps flunk FSU test, 37-10

Four-turnover first half dooms Maryland in loss to No. 5 Florida State

Seminoles now 13-0 vs. Terps

In flashback to 2001, Rix riddles UM secondary in 24-point 2nd quarter

September 15, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The context may have changed, but the result was the same.

Maryland is the defending football champion in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but Florida State still has the iron grip on its series with the Terrapins, as proved last night with a 37-10 win before a sellout crowd at Byrd Stadium.

The fifth-ranked Seminoles (3-0, 2-0 ACC) picked up their 13th win in as many meetings with the Terrapins (1-2, 0-1), who had hoped to avenge the only ACC loss they suffered last season.

Instead, the same cocktail of turnovers and superior Florida State receiving that doomed Maryland during the decisive quarter of last year's 52-31 loss in Tallahassee, Fla., did the same last night during a similar duration.

Maryland had limited Florida State to two field goals by Xavier Beitia as the first quarter wound down. But then the Terps fumbled twice, and Florida State defensive backs picked off two of Scott McBrien's passes. The four turnovers led to 21 of the Seminoles' 24 second-quarter points for a 30-0 halftime lead.

Overall, Maryland committed six turnovers, the highest total in the two-year tenure of coach Ralph Friedgen, and a significant factor in the loss.

"When you make as many turnovers as we did, you can't beat the Sisters of the Poor," Friedgen said. "And obviously we weren't playing the Sisters of the Poor."

During this time, the Terps' secondary didn't look any better than it did last season when it gave up three fourth-quarter touchdown passes by Chris Rix, turning the tide in that game.

Rix was back again last night, completing six of eight passes for 175 yards in the fateful quarter, with Anquan Boldin and Talman Gardner beating Maryland defensive backs to catch two touchdown throws.

Boldin's 19-yard catch, the tips of his toes barely glancing the back of the end zone, was made after a stretch to catch the ball, and gave the Seminoles a 13-0 lead with 13:27 left in the first half.

Gardner beat Curome Cox on the only play of a 56-yard drive, sauntering the final 10 yards into the end zone to give Florida State its lopsided halftime edge.

"We knew that they would attack us; we just didn't finish," said Maryland safety Madieu Williams, addressing the touchdown plays. "Both guys were in position to make the play. They made the plays, and we didn't."

In both cases, Maryland did its best to help the Seminoles. Mario Merrills - hit by Travis Johnson - fumbled on a second-down play, the ball recovered by Kyler Hall near midfield. The play led to Boldin's score.

Maryland tailback Chris Downs was nearing the end of a 19-yard catch from McBrien when Rufus Brown - who had set up Florida State's second touchdown with an interception - knocked the ball out. Stanford Samuels recovered, and Rix hooked up with Gardner.

By halftime, it was time to reconsider for many of the 51,758 who braved heavy rain to came out to Byrd Stadium. They were attracted by the thought of a possible upset of Florida State, which had won every ACC title since joining the league before Maryland won last season.

At the end of the third quarter, the stadium was half-empty, the home crowd ending up mostly teased and taunted.

Maryland made a quick impression on its first play of scrimmage when fullback Chad Killian took a dump pass from McBrien and turned it into a 39-yard gain. But the fruits of that effort were limited to a field-goal attempt by Nick Novak from 40 yards, blocked by B.J. Ward.

Down 13-0 with about 13 minutes left in the second quarter, Chris Downs seemed to have cut the Terps' deficit in half with an electrifying 61-yard run. But a penalty flag appeared near Maryland's 45-yard line, an illegal block wiping out the apparent touchdown.

"It was a momentum destroyer," Friedgen said. "Not only did it take the points off the board, but it was also a drive killer."

The best Maryland could do was a 52-yard punt by Brooks Barnard, pinning Florida State inside its 1-yard line. The Seminoles responded with a 90-yard drive that ended with a Beitia field goal, then Brown's interception and 33-yard return led to a 1-yard sneak by Rix that made it 23-0.

In the first quarter, the Seminoles were limited to two field goals, their powerful running game (318 yards a game) bolstered by Rix's scrambles out of the pocket.

Maryland's first points of the game didn't come until a kick by Novak from 44 yards with 4:23 left in the third quarter. Yet, Florida State continued to pour it on, with Fabian Walker completing a 39-yard pass to Craphonso Thorpe late in the game.

"I expected it," Friedgen said. "When there's a street fight, it's no holds barred."

Next for Terps

Opponent: Eastern Michigan

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Record: 1-2

Yesterday: Beat Southeast Missouri State, 35-32

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