- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2001

Maryland lost to perennial college football power Florida State on Saturday. With that, the Terrapins relinquished their undefeated season and firm grip on the ACC lead. They also missed a chance to move up in the national rankings and get the inside track to a BCS bid.
But the season is far from lost, though there are concerns about cornerback Tony Okanlawon's health and his return.
"We can still do big things," said Maryland tailback Bruce Perry, after the 52-31 loss to the Seminoles in Tallahassee. "The season's not over. Nothing is over with. This is one loss. … We're not going to let this loss take us down."
The Terps, who dropped five slots in the Associated Press poll to No. 15, are still in the midst of a tremendous season, the likes of which have not been seen in College Park since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Coach Ralph Friedgen has upgraded Maryland from mediocre also-ran to ACC title contender in his first season. Maryland was even tied with Florida State in the fourth quarter before four turnovers took their toll. The Terps are bowl-bound for the first time in a decade. Their seven wins already are the most in 16 seasons.
"We still have an opportunity to win a conference championship, finish 10-1 and see where that puts us on the national scene," said Friedgen, whose Terps are one of three ACC teams with one loss, along with 14th-ranked Florida State and No. 22 North Carolina. The Terps (5-1 ACC) beat the Tar Heels in the season opener, and have remaining league games at home against Clemson and at N.C. State.
The major concern for Maryland these days is at cornerback. Their best cover man, Okanlawon, missed the game against the Seminoles and his status is unclear. Friedgen said yesterday that the senior has a "medical issue," declining to give details. Okanlawon, who has started 28 games in his college career, was said to be suffering from flu conditions early in the week before the Oct. 20 game with Duke, and sustained a concussion in that contest. The coach said Saturday not to expect Okanlawon, the team's interception leader with five, to play this week against Troy State.
With Okanlawon out, Florida State quarterback Chris Rix, who completed 15 of 24 passes for 350 yards and five touchdowns, exploited the Terps' secondary. Rix threw the ball up and his speedy and athletic receivers gained position physically to make the catch or simply ran past the defenders. Fill-in cornerback Dennard Wilson was routinely beaten in one-on-one coverage as wideouts, particularly Talman Gardner (six catches for 140 yards and three touchdowns), took advantage of the inexperienced sophomore.
"Right now, [Wilson] is feeling pretty low," said Friedgen, whose team faces two of the ACC's best passers in Clemson's Woody Dantzler and N.C. State's Philip Rivers to close the season. "I still believe in him with all my heart. … We'll get him back [emotionally], and he'll win a game for us down the stretch. You just watch."
The Terps return to work today for the first time after a loss in nearly a year, with their last defeat coming on Nov. 18, 2000, when Ron Vanderlinden was coach. Friedgen was on the winning side that day at Byrd Stadium as Georgia Tech's offensive coordinator. Vanderlinden was fired the next day, and Friedgen soon began the current football resurrection.
Friedgen said his team didn't play smart against the Seminoles, but was encouraged that "they played with their hearts. If they didn't do that, I'd be more upset about this." He is confident the loss will be behind them starting with today's practice in preparation for Saturday's home game against Troy (Ala.) State.
"I'm playing that next hole, you know what I mean," Friedgen said. "I'm not letting this one screw me up."
Notes
Troy State is in its first season in Division I-A. The independent Trojans have several transfers from top programs, and upset Mississippi State 21-9 on Oct. 13 and beat Southern Utah 20-17 on Saturday.

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