- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2008

They came dressed in black, the largest Byrd Stadium crowd of the season, prodded to arrive in outfits matching Maryland’s jerseys for the evening.

It proved apropos attire as the burial of the TerrapinsACC title hopes unfolded before their eyes. With a chance to extend their chances for a conference title to the final weekend of the regular season, No. 22 Maryland was instead overwhelmed in a 37-3 pounding at the hands of Florida State.

“I’m very disappointed in the game we played, especially when we had a lot at stake,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “It just kind of boggles my mind that we played so poorly in such a big game. … We didn’t compete. We didn’t play with any effort. I’m disappointed to say the least.”

It was the second time in three years the Terps (7-4, 4-3) arrived at the season’s penultimate week needing only to win out for a chance to secure the program’s first league championship since 2001. And unlike two years ago, when the Terps clung to some hope after a loss, Maryland enjoyed no wiggle room this time.

When Boston College knocked off Wake Forest about an hour before kickoff, the Terps lost any flexibility they enjoyed entering the week. And after a blitzkrieg of speed and power from the Seminoles (8-3, 5-3), Maryland is relegated to playing for bowl positioning - and perhaps acting as a spoiler - in its finale at Boston College.

“Today wasn’t our day,” Friedgen said. “I told them I’d be back at work on Monday, and they have to come ready to work Monday because 8-4 is better than 7-5. There’s bowl opportunities for us and a chance to win nine games. We still have a lot to play for.”

For all its foibles, the one reliable facet of Maryland’s up-and-down offensive line was its pass protection. Chris Turner absorbed only six sacks in as many league games, avoiding crippling mistakes for much of the season.

It all evaporated in the face of Mickey Andrews’ defense, which produced a vintage Seminoles performance that stirred memories of the program’s 1990s halcyon days.

A routine developed not far into the first half. Turner would take a snap and turn, only for defensive end Everette Brown (3.5 sacks) or one of his linemates to overpower a Maryland blocker and greet Turner within a second. The Seminoles had five sacks at the break and finished with six.

Even when Turner wasn’t introduced to a new friend wearing a white shirt, there was still pressure. And with the added company in the backfield, Turner and his teammates stumbled into just enough slipshod plays to cost Maryland any chance to win.

It was bad enough when tailback Da’Rel Scott coughed up a fumble, only to watch Derek Nicholson scoop it up for a 22-yard touchdown return - the first defensive touchdown the Terps yielded this season.

And matters devolved further when the Seminoles needed only four plays to convert Turner’s second interception into a 1-yard scoring dive by Antone Smith.

Turner’s picks - one on a tipped pass, another just simply a bad decision on his part - were anomalous in a season during which his game management skills improved. Turner had gone 132 attempts without an interception and had tossed just one in 197 throws before tossing two in a seven-pass span.

Maryland committed four turnovers, its most since a five-giveaway meltdown at West Virginia in 2006.

“I’m definitely pretty surprised,” center Edwin Williams said. “I definitely didn’t expect so many turnovers, so many mental errors, so many things that maybe you would expect in a first game rather than an 11th.”

The Terps hoped to provide their 30-man senior class a memorable Byrd send-off and complete Maryland’s first perfect home season since 2003. Yet the emotion of the pregame ceremony was not nearly enough.

Maryland drove into Florida State territory on its first two drives, coming away with a punt into the end zone and a missed 44-yard field goal. The Seminoles then unveiled their offensive plan for the evening, asphyxiating the Terps with a clock-melting, 16-play march capped by Christian Ponder’s touchdown pass to Preston Parker on the second play of the second quarter.

It was more of the same to start the second half, by which time safety Myron Rolle had arrived after being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. Florida State, already up 21-0, milked more than eight minutes off the clock before Graham Gano kicked the first of his three second-half field goals.

The Terps suffered their worst home loss since another Florida State spanking - 59-7 in 2000.

“It’s real tough; I don’t know what else to say,” Turner said. “We had an opportunity and we didn’t capitalize on it.”

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