The Florida State Seminoles beat the Maryland Terrapins 30-16. FSU out-played the Terps, but not by much. At 6-2, Florida State finished its conference season with the 'Noles' best record since division play began. The worst result now for the 'Noles is a share of the division title. If Maryland beats NC State next week, FSU will be division champs outright. Florida State had a 16-16 ACC record in the last four years, so a 6-2 record represents a significant improvement.
But it wasn't always pretty. In the first half FSU had multiple mental errors that stalled the offense. Quarterback Christian Ponder had a very up-and-down game with one bad interception and at least three other poorly-thrown balls. FSU had three pre-snap penalties that backed up the 'Noles and made running unrealistic. Receiver Bert Reid had three first-half drops. Florida State is on its fifth right guard of the season and both Henry Orelus and Bryan Stork played poorly. Running back Ty Jones missed three crucial holes, And Chris Thompson had an awful fumble to go with a 70-yard TD run. Jimbo Fisher called a highly questionable game in the second half as well.
Florida State's young defensive line also got blown up as it has in the last three games. There were inconsistencies in zone coverage as well, as Maryland moved the ball much better than expected.
Additionally, Florida State had to battle the referees. In the first quarter, with a 7-3 lead, FSU's Greg Reid exploded into a Maryland receiver who coughed up the ball. Mike Harris intercepted and returned the ball for the score. The officials flagged Reid for a hit on a defenseless receiver. Reid clearly led with his shoulder and hit the Maryland receiver in the top part of his chest. The touchdown was disallowed and Maryland went on to score a touchdown.
Then in the fourth quarter, FSU's Greg Reid looked to have pick off a pass. FSU took over at the Maryland 45 and quickly snapped the football. As Ponder dropped back, the refs blew the whistle, stopping the play for a review. Jimbo Fisher and Mark Stoops were livid as FSU quite clearly got the snap off before the play was blown dead. Reid clearly had not intercepted the ball, but the refs should not have stopped the play because FSU got the snap off. In what was perhaps a make-up call, the officials let the review stand.
Florida State's special teams were a mix of great and awful. Kicker Dustin Hopkins missed a 37-yard field goal, a 52-yard field goal, and had a kickoff out-of-bounds. But FSU executed a beautiful fake punt for 33 yards, setting up a score before the half. Also, in a play of pure luck, a rugby-style punt hit a Maryland player in the back, and FSU recovered at the Maryland 17.
But for all of the mistakes, FSU also made some nice plays. FSU had two long scoring plays that it executed perfectly. Thompson's run was perfectly blocked by Rodney Hudson and Andrew Datko. Bert Reed's 44-yard TD catch featured a nice blitz pickup, a great job of Ponder standing in and delivering the ball while getting drilled, and a nice job by Bert to fight off the press, catch the ball, and run to the endzone. Florida State had offensive drives of 44, 52, 63, 77, and 85 yards. On defense, FSU stuck with its "bend but don't break" gameplan and forced three turnovers. On the night, FSU out-gained Maryland 5.72 to 5.49 per play, about a 5% advantage.
But make no mistake about it, Florida State deserved to win this game. No, the 'Noles didn't dominate, but they were the better team tonight, by a little bit. And in the first year of Jimbo Fisher, after a season in which FSU almost missed a bowl game, the 'Noles have the their best ACC record since the start of division play. FSU has not won seven division 1 games in the regular season since 2007.
Florida State (8-3) now plays Florida at 3:30 on ABC. NC State also plays at 3:30, on ESPN2.