- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 29, 2006

A well-timed block has Maryland’s football team ready to go bowling for the first time in three years.

Jeremy Navarre blocked Gary Cismesia’s 46-yard field goal attempt with 42 seconds left to help the Terrapins hold on for a 27-24 victory over Florida State last night at Byrd Stadium and secure postseason eligibility.

Students stormed the field to celebrate the victory over the Seminoles, the erstwhile national power now comfortably residing in the cellar of the ACC’s Atlantic Division.

That hardly mattered to the Terps (6-2, 3-1 ACC), who locked up at least a .500 season in front of a crowd of 50,517 that included representatives from the Gator, Champs Sports and Meineke Car Care Bowls.

“It’s a big win for our program,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I told them last night our goals are bigger than six wins, so don’t feel the pressure and just go play. There’s a lot of time to get to six wins. I think it’s probably a relief for them. … That sixth win is a big monkey off your back.”

Still, there was some relief for a team that endured consecutive 5-6 seasons. After teetering on reaching the postseason the last two years — including consecutive losses in games that could have secured a bowl berth to finish last season — the Terps finally have accomplished something.

Not that it’s enough.

“We’ve been fighting to get six for so long, and it’s a great feeling to get to six,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “We’re still on a roll, and we still have a lot of games ahead of us. We have a lot of things still to get better.”

The Terps certainly delivered No. 6 in an appropriate, nerve-wracking fashion. Maryland built a 20-7 lead in the first half before a Florida State touchdown late in the second quarter cut the deficit to six points. Maryland then allowed the Seminoles (4-4, 2-4) to chip away for much of the second half. The Terps’ offense, proficient while capitalizing on fine field position early in the game, collected only 37 yards in the second half and actually lost 4 yards after their first possession of the third quarter.

That drive ended in Sam Hollenbach’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey, who spun off cornerback J.R. Bryant on his way to the end zone and a 27-14 lead. It was Heyward-Bey’s second score of the night and the third for Hollenbach, who delivered an efficient 12-for-20, 131-yard night.

More importantly, Hollenbach didn’t throw an interception in his second straight mistake-free outing. It was also the first time Maryland didn’t commit a turnover since Oct. 23, 2004, a span of 23 games.

“Hallelujah,” Friedgen said. “I knew there was something about tonight.”

With the offense stalled for the rest of the game, it was left to the defense to contain an explosive offense with a backup quarterback. Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford was scratched after developing tendinitis in his right foot during pregame warmups, pushing Xavier Lee — he of the 26 attempts all season — into action.

Lee rolled up 286 yards and two touchdowns, the second a touchdown to Chris Davis late in the third quarter. He also connected with Davis on a 55-yard pass play that set up a Cismesia field goal with 8:49 left, one that left even Friedgen seeking help from anywhere he could find it.

“I was working my rosaries pretty hard today,” Friedgen said.

With the aid of a strong breeze — one that was such a factor the Terps used Obi Egekeze to boom four touchbacks with the wind and Chris Roberts to deliver squib kicks against it — Florida State had more than five minutes to at least tie the Terps. The Seminoles steadily moved downfield, extending the drive by provoking an offsides call on a fourth down before stalling at the Maryland 29.

That forced Cismesia on to the field, where he waited through two timeouts before making his attempt. By that point, Navarre was ready to rush past the tight end and secure Maryland’s first blocked field goal since 2004.

“We just pushed them back and got our hands up and luckily it hit my hand,” Navarre said. “A 46-yard field goal, we knew it would be a little low, so we got our hands up and blocked it.”

With that swat, the Terps moved a bit closer to erasing two years of misery. It hasn’t come easy — nix that, it has rarely come easy for this bunch. Yet with four games left, suddenly anything seems possible.

And so much of it is thanks to locking up win No. 6.

“They keep fighting,” Friedgen said. “It’s what they do. It’s not always pretty, but you get everything that they have. As a coach, that’s all you can expect.”

Note — Fullback Tim Cesa left the game in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury and was replaced the rest of the game by freshman Cory Jackson.

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