Terps Tumble Late

Several have been prettier, but no play in the brief career of Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford has been more significant.

Weatherford's 15-yard touchdown run with 8:52 to play provided the go-ahead score Saturday as the Seminoles (7-1) rallied to top Maryland (4-4) 35-27 in front of a Homecoming crowd of 82,626.

"I was looking at the pylon the whole time," said Weatherford, who stepped up in the pocket and took off when a pass play didn't yield an open target. "As soon as I got within the 5, I knew I was in."

The run returned the advantage to FSU for the first time since the early stages of the second quarter, when Maryland embarked on a stretch of 24 unanswered points that rendered a 24-14 lead with 12:16 to play in the third.

"We started strong, we finished strong and we lost focus a little bit in between," junior linebacker Ernie Sims said. "We got up ahead and let down. We lost our attitude."

Following Weatherford's score, Sims intercepted Joel Statham on Maryland's very next drive. The takeaway - Sims' second of the game - led to a one-yard touchdown run by fullback James Coleman and FSU's final eight-point advantage.

Fellow linebacker A.J. Nicholson sealed the victory by sacking Statham on fourth-and-5 at the FSU 38 to halt Maryland's bid to tie the game with 52 seconds remaining.

"When I look back at 52 years of coaching, certain games are more exciting that others and this one would rank in the top five," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "We never had this one nailed down. We were fortunate to win."

Willie Reid's 61-yard touchdown on a punt return seconds into the second quarter gave FSU a 14-0 lead that created visions of a rout opposite the Terrapins, who had managed just 24 yards of total offense to that point.

But Maryland came alive with three touchdowns in the final nine minutes of the first half to take a 21-14 advantage at the half, the second time in as many seasons the Terps led the Seminoles at intermission.

But UM couldn't reprise its form from last fall's 20-17 upset win - renewed energy fueled the FSU comeback.

"It feels great. We never fought in (last season's) game like we usually do," Nicholson said. "This season we took it up ourselves to make a big play and win the game."

Reid set up another FSU score with long punt return and racked up 227 total yards on seven catches, two punt returns and two kick returns. His second-quarter touchdown was FSU's first on a punt return in over two years.

Greg Carr caught a 4-yard touchdown pass - his ninth of the season - but made an impact late that won't make the box score. Three plays before Weatherford's heroics, Carr drew a drive-sustaining pass interference call on fourth-and-6 from the Maryland 28.

"One of two things will happen when you throw to Greg Carr," Weatherford said. "He'll either come down with it or draw the penalty. I was surprised they had single coverage on him."

Lance Ball ran strong for Maryland, totaling a game-high 120 yards on 21 rushes for the Terrapins.

Statham threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in place of the injured Sam Hollenbach, the customary starter.

"We're going to have to learn how to finish things," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "We're going to have to play better in order to finish."

With the victory, FSU drew one step closer to clinching the top spot in the ACC's Atlantic conference and earning a bid to the inaugural conference championship game Dec. 3 in Jacksonville. The Seminoles hold a one-game lead and a tiebreaker over Boston College - losers of two ACC games - with two conference games remaining.

The Seminoles host N.C. State next Saturday.


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