- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 27, 2001

It's showtime.

Maryland and Florida State meet at a crossroads today in Tallahassee, Fla. The 10th-ranked and undefeated Terrapins are the surprise up-and-comers looking to dethrone the nine-time defending ACC champions. They have virtually ensured their first bowl berth in a decade by getting off to their best start in 23 seasons.

The No. 19 Seminoles are trying to halt a slide that has seen them absorb two losses and drop out of national title contention. Florida State has not lost three games in a season since 1986 and has never lost to an ACC team at Doak Campbell Stadium since joining the league in 1992 a run of 38 games.

"We have a chance to do something right now that you don't get a lot in life," first-year Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "It's an amazing challenge we have. We are in a position where we may not be in this position again. We have to take advantage of it."

The Terps (7-0, 5-0 ACC) can blast into the national title chase and get on the inside track to a BCS bowl if they pass their toughest test toward winning their first ACC title since 1985. The Seminoles (4-2, 3-1) are 73-3 in league games since joining the conference but already have suffered a 41-9 thrashing at North Carolina. Another ACC defeat would jeopardize their title streak and possibly drive a stake into a dynasty that includes three national championships and five national title games in the past eight seasons.

"I wouldn't want to be on the first team that lost in Doak Campbell in the ACC," said Florida State safety Chris Hope, a senior on a young team. "That might be the most remembered team in all of Florida State history."

Some 80,000 tomahawk-chopping fans will watch the Seminoles attempt to show they are still the class of the conference. The Terps believe it is their time to anoint themselves as the new king.

"This is the biggest game any of us have ever played in," Maryland quarterback Shaun Hill said. "And for guys like myself, probably the biggest game we'll ever play in."

Hill will face a blitz-heavy defense designed to force him into bad decisions. The senior regularly will see eight men in the box as the Seminoles try to negate the running game of Bruce Perry, the ACC's leading rusher at 135.6 yards a game.

Hill will be asked to make quick reads and throw against the one-on-one coverage of the Seminoles' dangerous cornerbacks.

Maryland's defensive philosophy will be similar: stuff the run and force error-prone quarterback Chris Rix to make bad decisions. The redshirt freshman was responsible for six turnovers as top-ranked Miami pounded the Seminoles 49-27 two weeks ago, a loss that ended an overall 54-game home winning streak at Doak Campbell. True freshman Adrian McPherson likely will play if Rix continues to struggle.

The Terps will try to neutralize the Seminoles' massive and experienced offensive line and limit running backs Nick Maddox and Greg Jones. They hope linebackers like E.J. Henderson and Aaron Thompson can fortify the defensive line and pressure Rix into mistakes.

"They are big and strong," Friedgen said of a Seminoles line that averages 312 pounds. "We're not that big [on the defensive line]. We just have to play low and hard and play our [tails] off."

Friedgen foresees a low-scoring game and believes field position will be key. He counts punter Brooks Barnard, who is 10th nationally with a 44.5-yard average, as a significant edge for his team.

The first thing the Terps must do is overcome the intimidation factor the brash Seminoles create and the imposing environment. Maryland has never beaten Florida State in 11 tries and has regularly lost by lopsided scores like last season's 59-7 rout in College Park.

"They can bring Army tanks on the field," Thompson said of the pregame ritual involving a horse and a spear. "They can do anything, and they can't psyche me out. My main concern is for the younger guys, making sure they don't get psyched out by all the hoopla that's going on."

In practice this week, Maryland had loudspeakers blaring the Seminoles' war chant to help the players prepare for the deafening crowd. Terps defensive end Durrand Roundtree remembers being taunted by Florida State players in the past screaming "You suck" and "You don't belong on this field," and his team getting discouraged and breaking down.

"If we can overcome the intimidation, we'll be fine," Roundtree said.

"We have a lot of confidence. We know we can win this game. When they come out, we are going to lay low and play it cool until the first snap. Then all hell is going to break loose."

Notes Florida State coach Bobby Bowden is tied for third on the all-time career victory list with "Pop" Warner at 319. He is three victories behind Bear Bryant and Joe Paterno. … Friedgen is attempting to becoming the first ACC coach to open his career with eight straight wins.

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