“That is an outstanding football team that we played today,” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said. “You can see why they have the ranking they have and the defense that is number one in the country. They are an outstanding football team.”
The Florida State Seminoles came into the game with the top-ranked defense in the nation and the fourth-ranked scoring offense led by quarterback E.J. Manuel. Florida State had won 20 of the past 22 games, including the last five games before Saturday's matchup. The Seminoles defeated the Terps last season in Tallahassee, Fla., 41-16.
The Seminoles got off to a hot start with Manuel orchestrating an 11-play, 62-yard drive off The Opening kickoff to score the first touchdown of the game with running back Devonta Freeman scoring on a five-yard run. Following the score, Maryland wide receiver fielded the kickoff but fumbled the ball on Maryland's 10-yard line, turning the ball over. Florida State's Manuel would score on the next play, finding tight end Nick O'Leary for a 10-yard touchdown, taking a quick 14-0 lead over the Terps less than six minutes into the game.
“You can't give Florida State that many points early on,” Edsall said. “With what we have to try and do offensively we can't play from behind like that. It makes it hard. We can't shoot ourselves in the foot and turn the ball over.”
Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins booted a 26-yard field goal to start the second quarter, giving Florida State a 17-0 lead and also becoming the NCAA all-time leader in points. Florida State would score another touchdown late in the first half with Manuel leading a 9-play, 70-yard drive that was capped with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to wide receiver Rashad Greene to give the Seminoles a 27-0 lead heading into the half.
Maryland would finally put some points on the board in the middle of the third quarter. On a fourth down, Petty evaded a sack, rolled to his right and hit an open senior receiver Kevin Dorsey who took it into the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown, only his second touchdown of the season.
“I told him that I was happy for him,” Edsall said. “He's a competitor and it's been tough on him because he hasn't had as much productivity this year that he would have liked. On senior day, you get a chance to be out there with the kids before the game to thank them and tell them how much you appreciate all their hard work. It's always emotional, but I think Kevin's a really special kid.”
The Seminoles responded later in the quarter, with Freeman breaking free for a 47-yard carry that would been a touchdown if Maryland sophomore safety Matt Robinson did not dive and trip him up. Freeman would finish what he started on the next play, diving into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown, giving the Seminoles a 34-7 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Seminoles would score another touchdown with running back James Wilder Jr. taking the ball into the end zone on a 22-yard touchdown carry to cap off an 11-play, 80-yard drive late in the fourth quarter. The Terps would respond with one drive that began when Florida State decided to run the ball instead of taking a knee. The Terps forced a fumble, then fumbled the ball as it rolled down the length of the field slipping out of the fingers of both the Terps and the Seminoles before it was finally picked up and recovered by Maryland. Two plays later, Petty found Dorsey for his second touchdown of the game and his third of his season, but that was too little too late as the Seminoles won this one, 41-14.
Petty was eight of 19 for 136 yards and two touchdowns but fumbled the ball once. Sophomore tailback Brandon Ross led the team with 11 carries for 30 yards. Dorsey led receivers with two receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns while freshman Stefon Diggs had three receptions for 45 yards. Senior linebacker Kenneth Tate also performed well in his last game in College Park, Md., recorded seven tackles and three sacks.
“Kevin has worked all season,” Edsall said. “He has worked hard in practice and gone out in the games and done his thing. To get to see him get two touchdowns is a good thing. We wish he had two in a winning situation. He is a leader, he is a captain. He doesn't point his fingers; he just goes about his business and keeps working. That is what you do. Good things happen to good people. When you do the things people ask you to do you will be rewarded and today it was nice to see him get those two touchdown catches.”
Manuel completed 17 out of 23 passes for 144 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Freeman led all rushers with 16 carries for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Greene had four receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown and O'Leary had three catches for 46 yards and another touchdown.
“That's not how you really want to go out, but guys are just upset,” senior offensive lineman Justin Gilbert. “This isn't really the season we were looking for. There was a lot of adversity. Hats off to the team for fighting all year and we have one more and we're going to get ready just as hard as we have every other week for UNC. We're going to go out and play our game.”
“It's true, a bowl is no longer a possibility, but at the same time we're not giving up and you may have noticed through the entire season, we might not be able to put the first half together, but we always come back that second half,” Dorsey said. “That's been a testament to the team. We're not going to give up. Regardless of if we're able to go to a bowl, we're going to go out and try to get a fifth win.”
“The freshmen and sophomores have great capabilities, and I try to tell them that all of the time,” Tate said. “They will have a great team next year. I won't be here, but I will be a big supporter and help them in any way they need. They just need to go out and play, especially because of the adverse experiences we have had to play with this year. It is a good learning experience for them.”
With the loss, the Terps fall to 4-7 overall and 2-5 in conference play and Florida State rises to 10-1 and 7-1 in the ACC. Maryland is now officially out of postseason contention after a promising 4-2 start to the season. They will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to face the North Carolina Tar Heels next Saturday in the last game of the season. Kickoff time is TBA.