The ACC race is all but over for the Terrapins, who dropped their third straight game Saturday, thumped 41-16 by Florida State.
Maryland (2-5 overall, 1-3 ACC) fell three games behind Atlantic Division-leading Clemson with the loss, and saw their most recent starting quarterback, C.J. Brown, knocked out of the lineup with a head injury.
Danny O'Brien, the 2010 ACC Freshman of the Year, returned to hit 9-of-18 passes for 180 yards and engineered the Terps' two touchdowns, opening the door on more questions about that position.
Of course issues at quarterback may be the least of coach Randy Edsall's worries. Maryland needs four wins in the last five regular season games to get bowl eligible, and only two of those contests are at home -- the next two weeks against Boston College and Virginia, now suddenly must-games for the Terrapins.
"The thing -- the kids are working and again I think what we have to do is we just have to continue to get better," said Edsall. "That's all we have to do. We have got to coach them better, the kids have to do their part and that's what we are going to continue to do."
The Terrapins started their seventh different defensive combination this year, again including four freshmen, something defensive coordinator Todd Bradford has had to do the last four games thanks to a rash of injuries on that side of the ball.
But the Terrapins simply didn't play particularly well anywhere, committing a season-high seven penalties Saturday, and digging a hole early when the Seminoles scored on their initial possession and went on to build a 24-3 lead. Maryland has allowed 97 points total the last two weeks.
O'Brien sparked the offense to two touchdowns and questions about next week's starting signal-caller will abound again this week, the kind of distraction that drives Edsall to, well, distraction. Three weeks ago, Brown replaced O'Brien and sparked the offense in a loss at Georgia Tech.
The Terrapins have now lost more games (five) than they did all of last year when they went 9-4 and reached the Military Bowl in what became coach Ralph Friedgen's final season.
Edsall's team now has very little margin for error if the squad wants to secure another bowl bid this postseason.
--As feared, C.J. Brown was less effective in his second start (and third game playing significant minutes) as more game film of his style was available to opposing teams. Florida State limited him to zero yards rushing on 10 attempts after he had amassed 286 yards on the ground in the previous two games. He did pass for 92 yards (11-of-19) before leaving the contest after a scramble and helmet-to-helmet hit by FSU LB Nigel Bradham early in the second half. Bradham was penalized on the play.
The Terrapins tried to attack FSU with quick short passes, fearing the Seminoles' pass-rush and overall quickness on defense.
--Maryland's sporadic offense, unable to generate many big plays in the first half, did go 3-for-3 in the red zone with a field goal under Brown, and two touchdowns under QB Danny O'Brien's direction. Maryland scored a late, garbage-time touchdown in the fourth quarter despite holding the ball just 2:51 that period.
--Counting kicking game specialist roles, 19 freshmen dotted the Maryland two-deep depth chart prior to the FSU game, including nine starters, four on defense, two on offense and three specialists.
--Maryland has now lost the last five meetings with Florida State, and trails the all-time series, 20-2. The Seminoles won the first 14 meetings before the Terps broke through with a victory in 2004. Maryland also won in 2006, both victories by three points. Maryland lost 11 in a row in Tallahassee.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Some of the Terrapins' youngest defenders -- Freshmen Titus Till, Lorne Goree and Mario Rowson were among Maryland's top tacklers. Till, a safety, had eight stops; MLB Goree, seven, and hybrid-Star LB Mario Rowson, five. Goree, Rowson and another freshman, DE Keith Bowers each had sacks.
LOOKING GOOD: QB Danny O'Brien -- What a difference a week makes. After missing his first start in 16 games last week, O'Brien entered in the second half at FSU after starter C.J. Brown was knocked out of the game, and the redshirt sophomore displayed some of the touch on the ball and savvy that made him ACC Rookie of the Year last season. He engineered Maryland's two touchdown drives and showed an ability to stretch the field in the passing game that Brown doesn't seem to have.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Recruiting -- Injuries and some attrition following the coaching change seem to have left the Terrapins shorthanded, something Edsall admitted in the postgame press conference at Florida State.
"We just don't match up with the speed and athleticism of Clemson and Florida State," he said. "That's what we are going to have to do from a recruiting standpoint."
The Terrapins weren't necessarily terrible in a 25-point road loss but they just don't have the speed or talent or depth to beat the ACC's upper echelon this year. And whether you blame Edsall or Ralph Friedgen, that's not something that's going to be fixed this year, even if the Terps get all those injured guys back.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "(C.J. Brown) got hit, came out. He was able to come back but I decided to keep Danny (O'Brien) in there. What we will do is we will evaluate it and watch those guys during the week and then make a decision next week. I don't want to get into the injury part other than the fact that he got injured, then our doctors looked at him, and they come back and say that he was cleared to go." -- Coach Randy Edsall on the quarterbacks.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Quintin McCree had career highs in receptions (nine) and receiving yards (177) at Florida State. His 69-yard catch-and-run from QB Danny O'Brien was Maryland's longest pass play of the season.
--WR Marcus Leak became the first true freshman wideout to start for the Terrapins since Danny Oquendo started against NC State in 2005. Leak had a career-high eight receptions for 61 yards, including his first touchdown, a 15-yard TD from O'Brien in the fourth quarter.
--QB Danny O'Brien moved to 11th in career passing yards at Maryland, passing Dick Shiner (1961-63). O'Brien's 180 yards moved him to 3,548 yards, just 99 yards behind No. 10 Stan Gelbaugh (1981-85).
--RB Davin Meggett moved past 2,000 career rushing yards on his second carry of the day. Now at 2,041 yards, he is the 11th Terrapin over the 2,000-yard mark. He led Maryland with 44 rushing yards against FSU's ninth-ranked rushing defense.
--CB Dexter McDougle made his third interception of the season in the second quarter, and now leads the team in that category.
--K/P Nick Ferrara punted a career-high 10 times but averaged just 34.4 yards per kick.
--RB Davin Meggett didn't start for the first time this season when Maryland opened with four wide receivers and a tight end.
--LB Darin Drakeford returned to the starting lineup after missing the last three games with an ankle injury.
--DT A.J. Francis made his first start in six games.
--WR Tyrek Cheeseboro, a true freshman who drew praise from coaches and a regular job on specials teams, has been lost for the season with an undisclosed leg injury sustained against Clemson. He will undergo surgery and apply for a medical redshirt.
--DB/LB Avery Graham, coach Randy Edsall announced this week, was also injured and would miss the rest of this season. That brings the number of Terps injured and out for the year to seven: Graham, Cheeseboro, G Andrew Gonnella, DB Matt Robinson, DT Justin Anderson, TE Dave Stinebuagh and LB Garrett Lederman.