Leading up to Saturday’s game against Florida State, Maryland coach Randy Edsall was blunt when asked what his team needed to do in order to beat – or even compete with – the Seminoles.
Senior linebacker Kenneth Tate offered a bright spot for Maryland, posting seven tackles and three sacks. (Photo by Bill Bride)
“We can’t make mistakes,” Edsall said. “If we want a chance to win, we’ve got to play a perfect game.”
But on Saturday, in front of 35,244 fans inside Byrd Stadium, the Terps did the exact opposite, coming no where close to a mistake-free game and shooting themselves in the foot multiple times en route to a 41-14 loss to the No. 10 Seminoles (10-1, 7-1 ACC).
The 27-point shell shocking – the team’s fifth-straight loss and third-straight blowout – officially eliminated Maryland (4-7, 2-5) from bowl contention, and next week’s game against North Carolina will be the Terps’ last outing of the season.
“It’s true. We’re no longer bowl eligible, but we’re not giving up,” wide receiver Kevin Dorsey said. “We’re going to scrap and try to keep playing. Regardless of going to a bowl or not, we’re going to try to get a fifth win.”
It didn’t take long for Florida State to begin its steady domination of Maryland. The Seminoles methodically marched 61 yards on 11 plays, eating 5:44 off the clock, and scored the game’s first touchdown off a five-yard scamper from running back Devonta Freeman (16 rushes, 148 yards, two touchdowns).
On the ensuing kickoff, freshman wide receiver Levern Jacobs fumbled during his return, giving Florida State the ball on Maryland’s 10-yard-line. Just one play later, the Seminoles were in the end zone again off a 10-yard touchdown pass from EJ Manuel to Nick O’Leary.
Just more than six minutes had ticked off the clock inside Byrd Stadium, and the Seminoles already owned a commanding, 14-0, lead.
“I said it earlier in the week, we’d have to play a perfect game in order to win,” Edsall said. “We go down 7-0, then we fumble the ball and next thing you know its 14 … To put yourself in that hole is very difficult to come back from.”
Wide receiver Kevin Dorsey posted 75 receiving yards and two touchdowns in his final game as a Terp. (Photo by Bill Bride)
“It’s really hard. You can’t dig yourself a hole and expect to get out of it easily,” safety Eric Franklin added. “We made it hard for ourselves. The mistakes compounded on themselves. We shot ourselves in the foot from the start.”
It didn’t stop there. Florida State kicked two field goals and scored off a 30-yard touchdown reception from wide receiver Rashad Greene, who burnt safety Anthony Nixon in coverage to the back corner of the end zone.
With a 27-0 lead at halftime, Florida State had as many points as Maryland had yards of offense after 30 minutes of action.
“That’s not how you want to start the game,” offensive lineman Justin Gilbert said. “As an offense, we’ve got to fight through that. We needed to put drives together, and we didn’t do it, and you saw the outcome at the end.”
Maryland did show some life in the second half. On their first drive after halftime, the Terps marched the ball 81 yards on nine plays and scored a touchdown off a 33-yard touchdown pass from Shawn Petty to Dorsey, who had a stellar final game in Byrd Stadium, finishing with 75 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
On fourth-and-two from Florida State’s 33-yard-line, Petty scrambled around in the pocket, running left and evading a would-be tackler before spinning back to his right. Midstride, he found Kevin Dorsey around the 15-yard-line. The senior wide receiver sprinted toward the end zone and dove toward the right pylon, fully extending for Maryland’s first score of the game.
“He was running his route and saw me in trouble,” Petty said. “When I ran to the right, he broke out. It was a great play by him. He’s smart. He’s going to make plays like that.
“He’s just a leader. He’s been talking to me at all times, telling me to relax. He came back to the ball and made some big plays today.”
Florida State went on to score two more touchdowns and coasted to a 27-point victory with their backups in for the majority of the fourth quarter.
The Terps did a score a last-minute touchdown – Petty connected with Dorsey for a 42-yard score – which was meaningless for the outcome of the game but surely left a few people in Vegas upset, as Florida State was unable to cover the spread with just 25 seconds left in regulation.
The final score gave the Terps’ something to point to as a beacon of success, but players still acknowledged the game as a whole was one of their worst. Maryland, riddled by injuries with 10 players out for the season, finished with two turnovers and hurt themselves with three penalties for 34 yards that took back big kick returns.
The Terps, who didn’t drive into Florida State territory until the second half, mustered just 170 yards of total offense, compared to the Seminoles’ total of 397. Dorsey, Stefon Diggs and Nigel King also all had crucial drops, hurting momentum on offense, while the offensive line struggled to contain defensive ends Bjorern Werner and Cornellius Carradine, as Florida State was able to get to Petty on five separate occasions.
“We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” Edsall said. “We can’t turn the ball over. At least make people go the distance, go 75 or 80 yards. When we give them a short field like we did, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense … Give them credit, but we didn’t execute as well as I thought we could have executed.”
There were a few bright spots for the Terps, though. Dorsey showed off his big-play potential on offense, while senior linebacker Kenneth Tate posted seven tackles and three sacks, becoming the first Terps to record three sacks in one game since Shawn Merriman in 2002.
“I was just fighting,” Tate said. “That’s what we said we were going to do this game. We just tried to take it and beat the person in front of you on every play. They set me up with some one-on-ones that I took advantage of, and I was able to get to EJ.”
But in the end, the Terps couldn’t do much of anything right Saturday and suffered an embarrassing loss in their final home game of the season on Senior Day. The defeat officially put an end to any talk of a postseason berth for a season that started with so much promise but was eventually derailed by countless injuries.
“Everybody was pretty down,” Gilbert said. “It’s the seniors’ last game at home. That’s not how you want to go out. Guys are upset. This wasn’t the season we were looking for.”