FSU kicker Gary Cismesia's blocked 49-yard attempt to knot the score at 27 points apiece may have been the highlight of the game for Terrapins fans, but FSU's journey to that juncture in the contest carries it's own interesting plot line.
Backup quarterback Xavier Lee was notified roughly one hour before kickoff that he would get the start for the Seminoles (4-4, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) in place of Drew Weatherford.
FSU's starting quarterback since the start of the 2005 season, Weatherford was available to play if necessary but was advised by team doctors not to play as he was suffering from the lingering effects of an injured foot sustained in practice last week.
Lee's late notification that he would earn his first collegiate start didn't have much bearing on his performance, however.
The Daytona Beach native finished the game 22-of-36 for a career-high 286 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I was very impressed. That is the best I've seen him since he came to Florida State in practice, the spring game, anything," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said of Lee. "Maybe it has to do with giving him the game – to say, ‘It's your game.'"
Lee look poised in the pocket and unrattled by a Maryland crowd that was hyped up for a visit from the Seminoles.
If the protection broke down, Lee's legs took over as he picked up a few key first downs late in the ballgame on scrambles. He finished the evening with eight rushing attempts for 50 yards.
"When things break down, I try to use what God gave me," Lee said, "and that is the ability to run. I use it, and it helps out on a lot of plays."
Tailback Antone Smith also made plays for FSU. The sophomore speedster outperformed starter Lorenzo Booker en route to posting a rushing score and 83 yards on 14 carries – a 5.9-yard-per-carry average.
Wide receiver Chris Davis had a career day nabbing eight catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Greg Carr grabbed a Lee scoring throw as well.
"I was just trying to make plays," Davis said. "I got open and Xavier found me."
A makeshift FSU defense didn't have much of an answer for the Terrapins in the first half. Maryland seemed to move the ball at will the majority of the game's initial two quarters racking up 20 points.
The unit stiffened up in the final 30 minutes of play but it wasn't enough.
Defensively, the Seminoles took the field with two first-time starters in redshirt sophomore linebacker Jae Thaxton and sophomore defensive end Neefy Moffett. Thaxton was a surprise addition to the lineup as he had not seen the field since suffering a concussion against Clemson in mid-September.
Florida State's usual starter at defensive end, Alex Boston, played sparingly as well. He was replaced by true freshman Budd Thacker. Standout linebacker Geno Hayes did not play with a sprained knee. He is expected to make a return this week.
Saturday's game was the final road contest of the year for FSU. The Seminole play at home each weekend in November starting with Virginia Saturday at noon.
Lee lights it up but FSU falls
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