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Terps can't fight through this one

October 05, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It would be easy to compare the Florida State-Maryland matchup to the tired old "two boxers" analogy.

It was two Atlantic Coast Conference teams standing toe-to-toe and throwing haymakers.

But this is the 1990s. This game was more like ultimate fighting. Anything goes, but in the long run, the Seminoles backed the Terrapins into a corner and won the decision on kicks.

Florida State didn't convince anyone why it's the No. 9-ranked team in the country, but the Seminoles did prove why they are able to win consistently by choking off Maryland's offense and using five Sabastian Janikowski field goals to scratch out a 24-10 victory over the Terrapins on Saturday before 43,134 fans at Byrd Stadium.

"Our defense kept us in the game," Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden said. "The biggest thing that hurt our chances tonight was field position. Defensively, after we allowed them to score in the first two minutes of the game, we didn't allow them a touchdown ... I don't know how long it's been since Florida State hasn't scored a touchdown for 57 straight minutes of a game."

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By far, it was Maryland's finest performance ever against the highly heralded Seminoles (4-1, 2-1 ACC).

The Terps held Florida State to one touchdown, five field goals and a safety.

Maryland (2-3, 0-2) held the Seminoles to 386 offensive yards, 245 yards less than Florida State's average output against the Terps since joining the ACC in 1992.

And on the bottom line, this was the closest game in the series since the 'Noles joined the league. In fact, Florida State hung a 50-7 embarrassment on the Terps last year.

But this year, there would be none of that.

"I think you have to give Maryland a lot of credit because they wouldn't go away," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "It looked like we went out there in the first three or four possessions and did exactly what we wanted to do, except we scored field goals instead of touchdowns. It's easy to see what our problems are ... It's the red zone."

Maryland's defensive play took the spotlight away from the Terps' ongoing quarterback shuffle. They used big plays to stop Florida State drives and put the Seminoles on their heels, almost to the point where they accepted field goals instead of touchdowns.

"We've got confidence. We can stand and play with anybody," Maryland linebacker Eric Barton said. "Mistakes hurt us. We played well defensively. The only thing we could have done better was make a play so we could get a field goal or something. Florida State still has their swagger, but I think they are now more alert that they could lose games."

If it wasn't for the career-high five field goals by Janikowski from 27, 47, 48, 23 and 36 yards, Florida State could have been in line to realize its second loss.

"Coaches love to have a game wehre it gets over with quickly, and I thought today it was going to be that way," Bowden said. "We go ahead 13-0 and I said we're going to go ahead and get this one. But they would not go away. They came back and scored. They kept fighting. And we kept doing things that I couldn't believe. I've learned to be happy with wins, despite everything else."

It looked to be a typical matchup early. Florida State effeciently marched 69 yards on six plays after the opening kickoff and scored on a Chris Weinke-to-Laveranues Coles 38-yard touchdown pass with 2 minutes, 30 seconds gone in the first quarter.

It was the last time the Seminoles saw the end zone.

Maryland hung in early, even though it managed only two yards and a missed field goal behind starting quarterback Ken Mastrole. The second drive even started after Florida State's Peter Warwick fumbled a punt on his 22. No offense was generated.

Florida State countered with the first of Janikowski's field goals to push to a 10-0 lead. Then Maryland turned to freshman Randall Jones to run the offense. The Thomas Johnson product made things exciting, but struggled passing, hitting just 6-of-14 for 46 yards, forcing the Terps to sputter.

"We got Randall in there because his mobility gave us the best opportunities to get out on the perimeter," Vanderlinden said. "Randall throws the ball much better in practice than he did in the game."

Down 13-0, Jones hit his best pass of the day, a quick strike over the middle to Moses Cruz resulting in a 14-yard touchdown to start the third quarter. The two teams traded field goals to end the half, giving Florida State a precarious 16-10 lead at the half.

After the intermission, the Maryland spent most of the rest of the game with its back pressed against its goal line. The Terps didn't get past their own 31 in the third quarter, falling short on a fake punt pass to sustain a drive.

Jones fumbled in the end zone for a safety on an option play with 8:20 left in the third quarter and the window of opportunity began to close.

"Florida State puts a lot of guys inside and it's tough to run," Vanderlinden said. "We tried to run our (option) series, which was risky, but we were playing to win the game."

Maryland held Florida State to two more field goals for the rest of the game - a total of eight points in the second half against the vaunted Florida State to finish the respectable showing.

But the offense managed only 197 yards and didn't threaten at all in the second half.

"We learned that we are a good team that can go toe-to-toe with them," Vanderlinden said. "We were playing to win, but we have to be able to make the big plays to win the big games."

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