Seminoles' 'fast lane' style put Terps in passing zone

November 02, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It's been said many times ... "Speed kills."

Over the years, the overall quickness of the Florida State football team has left the University of Maryland on death row.

On Saturday, the Terrapins enabled then-No. 5 Florida State to use that speed to commit suicide.

Maryland turned the Seminoles' fleet-footed ability against them, forcing FSU to go from race leader to pace chaser in the Terps' stunning 20-17 victory at Byrd Stadium - their first win in 15 tries against the powerhouse program.

In the past, the Terps had been competitive early before tiring in the fourth quarter by the frenetic pace set by Florida State's style of play. But on Saturday, Maryland harnessed the Seminoles by using some clear planning and basic offense executed well.


"I watched all the tapes with the (offensive coordinator, Charlie Taaffe) and the offensive coaches," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "After we were done, I told Charlie this one should not be a big game plan. Let's focus on the things we can do, not what isn't possible. They have so much speed and they are so hard to run the ball on. Charlie did a job calling the plays to take advantage of their speed."

Maryland turned to options and reverses to keep Florida State running from side to side and quick-hitting, short drop passes to give struggling quarterback Joel Statham confidence in the system while forcing the offensive line to block for short periods of time. Maryland's receivers ran decoy routes and crossing patterns to run off the Florida State secondary and create space to catch passes and run for yardage after the receptions.

"I think that was one thing we were trying to do was catch them off guard," Statham said. "The reverse play that we ran with Jo Jo Walker was something I used to run in high school. I like that play a lot and I knew it was going to come through."

Maryland opened its scoring drive midway in the second quarter with Statham and running back Josh Allen rolling to the right on an option play. Walker peeled back against the grain - and Florida State's pursuit - and was flipped the ball. Walker swept around left end for a 35-yard gain, which set up Statham's 1-yard plunge for a touchdown and the Terps' 13-3 halftime lead.

Walker, Vernon Davis and Rich Parson became key short- and mid-range receiving targets and forced Florida State to make plays. Statham riddled the eighth-ranked defense in the country for 333 yards passing.

"We just had to come out and make plays," Walker said. "Coach Friedgen said all week that we had to make the big plays tonight and we did."

"I told the receivers that I wanted them to play aggressive, not just catch the ball and fall down," Friedgen said. "I wanted them to go after them. We had nothing to lose."

The key play in the second half was Statham's swing pass to Allen, who caught the ball in stride and turned it into what became a backbreaking 72-yard touchdown and a 20-10 lead.

"The big thing about Joel today was he was on target with a lot of his passes," Friedgen said. "When you are running screens, if you make the receiver stop to catch the ball, it's dead in the water. You catch him in stride and you have a 10-15 yard gain."

Defensively, Maryland's defensive backs limited Florida State's all-out bursts downfield. Instead of allowing the Seminoles to run past them, the Terps' defenders stayed on Florida State's hip and in front of the receivers, slowing them down and impeding their progress.

In other Maryland losses to FSU, the Terps' secondary was tired out late in the game and allowed the Seminoles' openings to salt the game away. On Saturday, Florida State was 0 of 15 on fly-pattern plays with one interception in the end zone.

"I was surprised they abandoned the running attack and tried to air it out," Maryland defensive back Domonique Foxworth said. "They went to the air and we stepped up. To be honest with you, that's the way we are supposed to play every week. We worked real hard on staying with our technique, stepped up and stayed with the game plan."

The win ended a three-game losing streak for the Terps and stopped what looked to be a crashing finish to a lost season. Instead, Statham showed a side of leadership he was lacking and Maryland suddenly still has a chance to reach a bowl game if it can ride the wave of this victory.

"I feel like I got my confidence back," Maryland quarterback Joel Statham said. "This win is big for me and for the team. After Josh scored that big touchdown, I felt like we got our swagger back ... kind of like we had last year. All we have to do is keep our heads up and score touchdowns."

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