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'Being encouraged' doesn't suit Terps

October 05, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - As defining moments go, the University of Maryland football team's might have lacked definition.

The Terps may have come of age on Saturday.

The defense played its finest game of the season. The offense all but verbally anointed its quarterback of the future. And together, they were able to hold No. 9 Florida State's usually explosive offense to 24 points.

--cont. from sports page--

Overall, the performance said a lot about the direction of the Terps. But still, there weren't a lot of smiles or celebrating after the game.

That's because Maryland only put 10 points on the board itself.

"I told the players after the game, 'Don't allow anyone to pat you on the back,'" Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden said after the 24-10 loss. "I'm (darn) disappointed we lost. It's not about losing ... it's about winning and that's what we are going to do."

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The game presented a paradox for the Terps. On one hand, they had to be happy because it was as close as Maryland has been to beating Florida State since the Seminoles joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1992.

On the other hand, it was as close as Maryland has been to beating Florida State since the Seminoles joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1992. It's been so rare, letting it get away was frustrating.

"It's encouraging, but I'm tired of being encouraged," said Maryland linebacker Kendall Ogle. "We didn't win, and that's the bottom line. Now's the time to win some games. We have six games left, and I plan on winning all six."

Football players are known for blurting out bold statements of confidence, but Ogle's may not be out of the realm of possibility.

Maryland is past the toughest part of its schedule of three Top 25 teams in the first five weeks. The last six games are against the ACC. The league is suffering a down year, while the Terps are on an upswing.

"We are no longer crawling," Vanderlinden said. "But before we can start running, we have to walk, and before we sprint, we need to run. We learned we can play with the good teams."

Field position and glitches in offensive execution kept Maryland from throwing a tremor-sized scare into the Seminoles. Yet the components of a major upset were there.

* Maryland's defense held Florida State to just one touchdown, and that came in the first three minutes of the game. After that, the Seminoles only managed five field goals and a safety - including only eight points in the second half.

The Terps held Florida State to 386 yards, 245 yards below the average the Seminoles have accumulated in the last six meetings of the teams.

"We showed we can play with anybody, but mistakes hurt us," Maryland linebacker Eric Barton said. "Everyone knows they are a great team. They also play well defensively, and the offense made a couple of big plays. They still have the swagger, but they are more alert that they can lose now."

* Randall Jones controlled Maryland's offense for more than three-quarters of the game. Despite some mistakes from inexperience - like fumbling in the end zone for a safety - he threw his first touchdown pass and gave the Terps some diversity.

"If I can play against Florida State, I can play against anybody," Jones said. "Today I just didn't do it. Still, I have to keep improving from week to week."

* The 14-point loss was the closest margin in a Maryland-Florida State game since the Seminoles joined the league. And the Terps accomplished the feat while playing 24 freshmen and sophomores.

In days to come, Maryland and Vanderlinden might look at Saturday's game as the turning point of the school's football program. But it won't be fondly.

"We learned that we can play good teams toe-to-toe," he said. "Two of the three teams we have lost to will probably end up in the Top 10. We need to get everything set, get more players and get tougher. I look forward to being one of those teams."

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