- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 22, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | Presented with an opportunity to collect an elusive victory, Maryland came together Saturday to produce perhaps its most united team effort of the season.

Fittingly enough for a season long since swirled down the drain, every facet of the Terrapins contributed to a 29-26 loss at Florida State that Maryland had no reason to lose but frittered away in the final minute.

“It pretty much sums up the whole season,” safety Antwine Perez said. “We’re this close to just making something happen and just let it slip away at the end.”

And so Maryland did its usual road trudge from the locker room to the bus, players and coaches slowly walking with ashen faces gazing straight down after yet another miserable Saturday.

But it was unusual even in such a demoralizing season for everything to so completely fall apart in the end game.

“I think it’s definitely up there,” linebacker Alex Wujciak said. “Like Coach said, we had a chance to finish the game off in all three phases of the game. Our defense could have shut them out in the end, our special teams could have backed them up, and our offense didn’t get a first down. Just knowing the whole team played an effect in the loss puts it up there.”

The Terps (2-9, 1-6 ACC) matched the school record for losses in a season and wound up winless on the road for the first time since 1971. It was a stark contrast with the Seminoles (6-5, 4-4), who sent out retiring defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews with a victory in his final game at Doak Campbell Stadium and assured Florida State of bowl eligibility for the 28th straight season.

It happened even though Maryland quarterback Jamarr Robinson was remarkably efficient in his second start. It happened even though the Terps ran for a season-high 196 yards (including 83 from Da’Rel Scott, who returned from a broken arm).

It happened, in short, because Maryland found a way to succumb in the end even after controlling the second half.

“Well, that dadgum game, [it’s] one of those games you lose it,” Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. “You look up and say, ‘Gosh, you just lost it.’ Then you pull it out. Then you look up and gosh, we lost it again, they just scored a touchdown. Then first thing you know, we’re winning. It was that kind of game. It’s hard to believe we won it.”

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen would probably agree, especially after Cameron Chism’s interception - the third pick of the day for the Terps - handed Maryland possession near midfield with 2:57 left and a 26-22 lead.

The offense stalled, opting for predictable runs to force Florida State to call timeouts - even though the passing game was working and a first down would have all but clinched a victory.

Nick Ferrara couldn’t get a punt out of bounds to pin the Seminoles inside the 20. Instead, Greg Reid exploited lousy coverage for a 48-yard return to cut the field in half.

Then it was the defense’s turn. Maryland yielded its second go-ahead touchdown of the fourth quarter, a shredding ending when Lonnie Pryor barreled in from 3 yards out to clinch the victory.

“When you have a chance to pull the trigger, you have to pull the trigger,” said Friedgen, who became the sixth coach - and fourth straight - to absorb a nine-loss season at Maryland. “You can’t let people get away. Now maybe that’s the next step this young team has to learn.”

One thing is for sure: There is no shortage of notes for Maryland to peruse while trying to glean lessons for the future.

The absence of defense cost the Terps an early-season defeat of Middle Tennessee. A crucial special teams miscue quashed all hope at Duke. And offensive bumblings surfaced throughout the season.

Saturday, though, was a special brew, a diabolical concoction that defined a season long past the point of relevance.

“This is difficult,” Friedgen said. “They’re all difficult. This was a win, right there, four and a half minutes to go. All we had to do was take care of our business, whether it was on offense, defense or special teams. We had to close them out. We didn’t get it done.”

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