- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 28, 2001


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen pulverized an innocent piece of gum as he chewed on the first loss of his head coaching career. Tailback Bruce Perry fought back tears and braced his head on his hands. Maryland's sideline was motionless in the final minutes as a perfect season disappeared into the Florida night.
The 10th-ranked Terps overcame Florida State's intimidation tactics and tamed the hostile environment on the home field of the 19th-ranked Seminoles. The main thing they couldn't overcome was their own mistakes as a game that was tied after the third quarter degenerated into a 52-31 loss before 82,565 at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Maryland committed four turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles, that led to three Florida State touchdowns. The Terps also had a slew of other miscues, including an abundance of dropped passes. The mistakes, combined with the play of Seminoles quarterback Chris Rix, who picked apart Maryland's secondary, was too much to overcome. Rix, a redshirt freshman, threw for 350 yards and five touchdowns and committed the only Florida State turnover, a second-quarter interception.
"We just don't turn the ball over, and this is our game," said Friedgen after the Seminoles scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. "The thing that's disappointing is, you get close to a real good team and you want to win so bad it hurts. When you don't get it done, it's really irritating. We were on the verge of something special, and we still are."
The Terps (7-1, 5-1 ACC) hoped to build on their ACC lead and take a huge step toward a BCS bowl. Maryland still leads Florida State (5-2, 4-1) and North Carolina (5-3, 4-1) by half a game in the league standings. Florida State, the nine-time defending ACC champion, still has never lost a conference game at home a streak of 39 games. Maryland is 0-12 all-time against Florida State.
The Seminoles broke the 31-31 tie on a perfectly thrown 28-yard pass from Rix to Talman Gardner with 12:28 left in the game. Cornerback Dennard Wilson had no chance on the pass caught just inside the left sideline of the end zone. Wilson, filling in for ill starter Tony Okanlawon, had a particularly poor game as he was repeatedly beaten by Gardner (140 yards receiving, three touchdowns).
After the kickoff, Maryland's Bruce Perry fumbled on the first play, and the Seminoles' Darnell Dockett recovered. Three plays later, Rix connected on a 22-yard touchdown pass with Javon Walker, who wrestled for position with Wilson before making the catch for a 45-31 lead.
"I don't know [what happened on the fumble]," Perry said. "I'm just disappointed. When you go 7-0 playing good football, you are not used to not being at your best. [Losing] is just new right now for us."
Maryland got the ball back with 9:59 left and had an opportunity to cut into the lead when receiver Jafar Williams beat cornerback Malcolm Tatum and was open down the right sideline with no one in front of him. Quarterback Shaun Hill threw a nice lead pass for an apparent touchdown, but the ball bounced off Williams' face mask and fell harmlessly.
"That's the one thing that hurts so bad," said Hill, who had a solid game (214 yards passing, 48 running) despite two interceptions. "When you get beat, it's one thing. When you beat yourself, it's another. We did the latter."
The Terps, who led 14-0 in the first half, battled back to tie the game at 31-31 after a 1-yard touchdown run by Hill with 1:53 left in the third. It capped an efficient 12-play, 82-yard drive that included a 38-yard screen pass to Perry, who finished with 67 yards rushing and 70 receiving.
After giving up three touchdowns in the second quarter to fall behind 21-14, Maryland showed its resiliency. Terps kicker Nick Novak made a 51-yard field goal just before halftime, and the Terps reclaimed the lead 24-21 when they opened the second half with a nine-play, 80-yard drive, capped by an 8-yard run by Perry.
Florida State tied it on the next possession on Xavier Beitia's 31-yard field goal, which was followed by another costly miscue by Maryland. The Terps' Jamal Chance tried to catch a short kickoff, bobbled it and then knocked it away with his left knee. The Seminoles' Jared Hetzel recovered it at Maryland's 15. Tailback Greg Jones punched it in on a 5-yard run as Florida State took a 31-24 lead with 6:50 left in the third quarter.
"We made errors that we hadn't been making all year," said Friedgen, whose team came into the game second in the nation in turnover margin. "You can't win when you do that. It doesn't happen. To be honest with you, we were probably lucky to be in the game as long as we were."
The Terps had built a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter with touchdowns on successive possessions. Fullback James Lynch scored first on 65-yard run. Maryland next scored on a 1-yard run by Riley that closed a 14-play, 58-yard drive that took 6:50.
The Seminoles exploded for 21 straight points in the second quarter, starting with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Rix to Gardner. Following the kickoff, Florida State tied the game on Maryland's first offensive play when Michael Boulware made an interception and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown. The Seminoles took the lead on on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Rix to Gardner.
Perry went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark, and has 1,016 for the season. … Florida State's Bobby Bowden won his 320th career game, and is alone in third on the all-time list behind Joe Paterno and Bear Bryant.

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