Terps look for first vs. Fla. St.

With three-game slide, UM now has challenge of facing fifth-ranked FSU

0-14 all time against Seminoles

Getting offense on track major key to pulling upset

October 30, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Each season, Maryland's football players look people in the eye and say the same thing.

Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the year we shock the world. Maybe this time, we'll prove everyone wrong. Maybe we'll finally go out and beat Florida State.

It's certainly the right attitude, and approach, to take. After all, there's not much sense in the Terps even playing the Seminoles if they don't believe this time things might be different. But for 12 consecutive years, Florida State has taken that yearly dose of optimism and hope and squashed it.

Maryland has never beaten the Seminoles - the Terps are 0-14 against Florida State and 0-12 since 1992 - and unless the Terps can play their best game of the season and find a way to win today at home, they'll be forced to answer the same painful questions again next year, and the next, and the next, until some team comes along and wipes away all that disappointment.

What makes the Florida State game particularly frustrating for Maryland each year is the mental block the Terps seem to have about playing the Seminoles. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has said numerous times recently what disappoints him the most about his 0-3 record against Florida State is the feeling that his teams have tended to tense up and get awed by the Seminoles' history and tradition instead of focusing on the game in front of them.

"That's a big thing you've got to get over," said Maryland center Kyle Schmitt. "I think everybody on this team has known about Florida State since we were kids, watching guys like Charlie Ward and guys like that. That's a big part of it. But you've got to realize they're good football players, but N.C. State has beaten them two years in a row previously, and we've beaten N.C. State. Clemson too. They're good football players, but they're not head and shoulders above us."

Fair or unfair, the Florida State game is seen by many - locally and nationally - as a measuring stick for Maryland's program each year. Though the Terps were one of only five programs in the country with three straight seasons of 10 or more victories coming into this year, Maryland has also gone 0-17 against opponents ranked in the Top 10 since 1990. Beating the fifth-ranked Seminoles (6-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) would give the Terps (3-4, 1-3) a serious credibility boost.

"As our program grows, those games are going to come about," Friedgen said. "How successful we are in those games is really going to determine the direction of our program. That's why, as a goal, we want to beat a Top 10 team. Once you do that, I think you reach a certain status. I know when I was [coaching at Maryland] before, and that happened, we felt like there wasn't any team we couldn't play with."

A year ago, Maryland vowed not to be intimidated, and right after the coin toss, several players, led by Florida native D'Qwell Jackson, stood at midfield, screaming and pounding their chests. That display of emotion seemed to carry over to the beginning of the game as Maryland grabbed a 10-0 lead, thanks to an interception return by Jackson. Florida State scored 35 unanswered points after that, but for a few moments, the Terps seemed to believe.

Expect similar tactics from Maryland this year.

"We'll definitely talk trash from the jump," said senior receiver Rich Parson. "It could turn into a brawl. It's going to be a nasty game."

But no matter how much emotion the Terps play with, it won't mean anything if Maryland can't move the ball and score. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said this week he thought Maryland's defense will be the best the Seminoles have faced since playing Miami, but the Terps' offense is another matter. In the past three games, Maryland has scored just 17 points, and seven of those came after a punt block gave the Terps the ball inside Clemson's 20-yard line.

"You're just afraid they're going to break out," Bowden said of Maryland. "They have scored 50 points and have scored a lot of points against some teams. Lately, they haven't. I don't know if it's an injury or not. But you're afraid they are going to break out."

Friedgen said that sophomore Joel Statham is still his starter at quarterback, but he didn't rule out playing freshman Jordan Steffy if the situation warrants. Statham, though, played better against Clemson last week, and Friedgen is hoping some of that will carry over.

"I think Joe's becoming a little more confident, a little more relaxed," Friedgen said. "He was very much in control [against Clemson]. What would help Joel right now is if some guy would step up and make a play for him. That would boost everybody's confidence."

Maryland today

Matchup: No. 5 Florida State (6-1, 4-1) vs. Maryland (3-4, 1-3)

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

Time: 3:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 2, 7/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Florida State by 10 1/2

Today's game

Florida State (6-1) vs. Maryland (3-4)

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

Time: 3:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 2, 7/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Florida State by 10 1/2

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