Unfortunately for the Maryland Terrapins (7-4), they came up short in their bid to advance to the ACC championship game, as the Florida State Seminoles (8-3) rode turnovers and big plays to a 30-16 victory.
In a gut wrenching turn of events, the Terps were driving with a chance to win the game with less than a minute remaining when Seminole free safety Nick Moody intercepted freshman Danny OBriens pass on fourth down, returning it 96 yards for a touchdown.
This one hurts just because its another one of those games where we felt like we were in the game, OBrien said. We werent outmatched and the scoreboard didnt show it, so it was tough.
Despite outgaining the Seminoles 432-354, the Terps inability to prevent the big play ultimately doomed their ACC title dreams. FSUs two offensive touchdowns came on gains of 70 and 44 yards.
Head coach Ralph Friedgen was disappointed but proud of his team, which has struggled through catastrophic amounts of injuries on their offensive line this year, and had three more offensive linemen – center Bennett Fulper, right guard Justin Lewis and left tackle Max Garcia, making his first career appearance – go down with injuries. Only Fulper returned to action after he left.
Were pretty proud of our players, I thought they fought with everything they had, said Friedgen. With all the adversity we had today, we were still in there, with a chance to win at the end.
Few expected the Terps to be in contention after the 2-10 disaster of a season just a year ago, but thanks to the stellar play of OBrien, who has won ACC freshman of the week honors four times already this year, the Terps are already bowl eligible and can win their eighth game of the season next week at home against NC State.
This team is growing, Friedgen said, Were getting better, and were going to beat one of these teams one of these days. I see it; were very, very close.
Despite the loss, Maryland safety Kenny Tate continued his spectacular season, accumulating seven tackles, two for loss, and an interception that led to a field goal. Tate, a converted wide receiver, has more often than not been the Terp on defense to come up with the big play, especially on third down.
I just try to get myself around the ball, Tate said. I know weve got to make a play, its third down, its the biggest down, weve just got to get off the field. Thats all our mentality is, just to get off the field. We made a couple of big plays today but it wasnt enough.
There was a scary moment in the first quarter when Maryland running back DaRel Scott went over the middle for a pass and was hammered by Seminole cornerback Greg Reid, drawing a personal foul flag and negating an interception and defensive touchdown. Scott lay on the ground for a few minutes in obvious pain, but was eventually able to walk to the sideline under his own power and return just a few plays later.
(OBrien) threw the ball and I tried to get it and (Reid) just came out of nowhere, Scott said afterward. When I got hit, I couldnt breathe at all, I was having trouble taking deep breaths, but after a couple of minutes, I was fine.
Players said the mood in the locker room was down after the game, and understandably so – if it werent for some rough luck, the games outcome might have been different. After review, an interception by Reid was upheld despite some damning video evidence that the ball had hit the ground, and on a key punt late in the game, cornerback Cameron Chism was hit square in the back and the Seminoles converted it into a field goal.
Friedgen, however, was proud of the way his players fought back after the breaks didnt go their way, when the defense came up with some stops on third down to keep the game within reach.
We could have said hey, its not our night, but we held them, he said. I think these are things to tell what kind of people we got here, what kind of character we have and how disappointed we are right now because they didnt get what they were coming after.