For a program desperately trying to regain past status, it's been a forward step under first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher. And with another week left, the Seminoles could still win the ACC Atlantic Division title if Maryland turns around and beats N.C. State.
"No matter what, you're at least the co-champion of this (division) and that was one of our goals, to be champions of this league," Fisher said. "We did what we could do. We had a chance to be 8-0. We didn't get it. But six wins is where we're wanting to go. It's a step in the right direction.
"I'm very proud of these guys." For FSU supporters, however, it will not truly be a feel-better type of season unless the Seminoles beat rival Florida on Saturday and break a six-game losing streak to the Gators.
Unlike the past five years, the Seminoles will at least go into the Florida game with a fighting chance. But it must be reminded that Florida coach Urban Meyer has dominated this series since he took over as coach, and the games have not been remotely competitive in the past three years.
This time, playing at home, FSU is hoping it may be a breakthrough moment. The Seminoles were hoping for a such a moment prior to the Maryland game. North Carolina had a nine-point lead against N.C. State. Had the Tar Heels held on, the Seminoles would have clinched a spot in the ACC championship game for the first time since the inaugural game in 2005.
Alas, N.C. State rallied at the end, and FSU took the field knowing it could not control fate in the race. Fisher tried to brace his team for that possibility. "I tried to say it on Thursday or Friday when I talked to them -- I don't care, as crazy it sounds, what happened to North Carolina and North Carolina State," Fisher said.
"That doesn't matter. If we're going to go where we're going to go as a program, we've got to develop a mentality of winning and a culture of winning no matter what the circumstances, no matter who does what."
The Seminoles continued their pattern of sporadic offense and bend-but-don't-break defense. They failed on four chances to score touchdowns inside the 20, but also held Maryland to a trio of field goals from the same area.
The Seminoles have not allowed the frequent big plays or quick-strike touchdowns as they did in past years. They are still undersized and short on depth with their offensive and defensive lines. They don't have a superstar receiver like they have had in their past.
But they are playing better. That is what has Fisher and many within the FSU community encouraged for the future.
--CB Greg Reid delivered a vicious hit late in the first quarter that jarred the ball from a Maryland receiver and into the hands of FSU CB Mike Harris, who returned it 32 yards for an apparent touchdown and a 17-3 lead. Instead, an official dropped his flag on the play and ruled Reid's hit was too high and therefore was a personal foul penalty. Maryland gained new life and drove the rest of the field for a tying touchdown. When FSU coaches learned the replay showed Reid leading with his shoulder and connecting on what seemed to be a legitimate hit, the sideline went ballistic.
--WR Bert Reed moved up to No. 11 on FSU's career receptions list with 133, passing his position coach, former FSU star Lawrence Dawsey. Reed's touchdown catch was only the fourth of his career.
--TB Chris Thompson's 70-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was his third scoring run of at least 70 yards this season.
GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Bert Reed -- One week after not catching a pass against Clemson, snapping a 19-game streak of catching at least one pass, Reed caught six passes for 93 yards against Maryland, including the game-winning score with a 44-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter. It was the longest TD grab of his career. The junior receiver has been an up-and-down player for the Seminoles with dropped passes, but he came up big against the Terps.
KEEP AN EYE ON: CB Nick Moody -- He has emerged as the Seminoles' best cover cornerback, and he sealed the game against Maryland with a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown on a fourth-down play. Moody, a sophomore, led FSU's defense with 13 tackles, including seven solo stops.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've done all we can do. You wish you had it in your control, but that was an option we could have taken care of a couple weeks ago. Our focus is on the Gators now and we'll let them play it out next week." -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, on the team's status in the ACC race and the season-finale against rival Florida.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: There wasn't a lot of things the Seminoles did well against Maryland ... except win. Playing on the road, in cold weather (for FSU players) in a game that mattered to both teams in the ACC race, the Seminoles made enough plays to win. This was the kind of game they have lost in past years. They didn't have a lot of penalty yards (six flags for 45 yards), limited Maryland to one touchdown and three red-zone field goals, and came up with four turnovers.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The offense needs to get more productive -- and that needs to happen this week. The Seminoles had only 15 first downs and were 0-for-4 on touchdowns when in the red zone. They also missed two field goals, with placekicker Dustin Hopkins not having one of his better games either. QB Christian Ponder and the passing attack has regressed in recent weeks. The Seminoles will be facing a very solid defense on Saturday against the Gators, and it will be a long day for FSU if this team cannot control the ball more and finish drives with touchdowns.
--QB Christian Ponder (elbow) reported no problems after returning from his one-game absence. He took every snap against Maryland and did not seem affected by an injury that had bothered him for a couple weeks.
--TB Jermaine Thomas (knee) missed the game, and it doesn't seem likely he will play against Florida, either, after sustaining what was feared to be a far worse injury in the Clemson game. In his absence, Chris Thompson ran well, but the Seminoles could have used Thomas' breakaway speed as an option in the Florida game.
--OT David Spurlock (concussion) missed the Maryland game.