Sept. 14, 2002
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Step One in Florida State's effort to regain the Atlantic Coast Conference championship is complete.
Chris Rix threw two touchdowns passes and ran for another score as the fifth-ranked Seminoles took a 30-point halftime lead and rolled past Maryland 37-10 Saturday night.
After having their nine-year run as ACC champions halted by Maryland last season, the Seminoles (3-0, 2-0) re-established their superiority in authoritative fashion.
"Even though they didn't beat us, they earned the ACC title and we want that back," Rix said. "Obviously we had to go through them, being the defending champion. It's definitely a good feeling to get the win here."
Turning three turnovers into touchdowns, Florida State went up 30-0 at halftime and improved to 13-0 against Maryland (1-2, 0-1). Since joining the ACC in 1992, the Seminoles have won 11 straight over the Terrapins by an average score of 50-15.
This one was sweeter than most.
"One thing I have never done is talk about paybacks or getting even, because it always comes back and works against you," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "I never talked to our team about that. But there's no doubt about it, we lost a little of our mystique last year and we'd like to get it back."
Unlike last year, when the Seminoles fell behind 14-0 and needed a late surge to beat the Terrapins, this one was decided when Florida State scored 24 points in the second quarter.
Rix followed a Terrapins fumble with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin to make it 13-0. The quarterback also scored from the 1 after a Florida State interception, and 31 seconds later Rix hit Talman Gardner with a 56-yard touchdown pass following a Maryland fumble.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you can't turn the ball over against Florida State and expect to win," Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen said.
Maryland finally got a field goal in the third quarter, but by that time the crowd of 51,758 had thinned considerably.
"I'm disappointed that we don't play our best against a team that is as talented as Florida State," Friedgen said. "I'm waiting for us to be able to punch through that barrier right now."
Rix went 13-of-25 for 227 yards, leaving after absorbing a hard hit in the fourth quarter. Greg Jones ran for 106 yards and a touchdown, and Gardner had four catches for 109 yards.
On the game's first play from scrimmage, Maryland fullback Chad Killian thrilled the crowd by taking a short pass 39 yards to the Florida State 41. The Terrapins got to the 21, but B.J. Ward blocked a field-goal try - the first indication that it wasn't going to be Maryland's night.
The Seminoles then moved 45 yards in 11 plays before Xavier Beitia kicked a 45-yard field goal.
A torrential downpour began during the Terrapins' next series, a three-and-out. Beitia followed with a field goal for a 6-0 lead.
The rain let up late in the first quarter, but the Seminoles did not. After Maryland's Mario Merrills lost a fumble on the final play of the period, Boldin made a fingertip grab in the end zone to make it 13-0.
Minutes later, Maryland made its most costly mistake of the night. Chris Downs burst over left tackle on a 61-yard TD run, but the score was called back because of an illegal block.
"The touchdown that was called back was really crucial because we were right back in the game at a really competitive time. Not only did we not get points out of it, but it killed the drive for us," Friedgen said.
The Terrapins then punted, and Rix took the Seminoles from their own 1 to the Maryland 9 before Beitia added another field goal.
On the first play after the kickoff, Florida State's Rufus Brown returned an interception 33 yards to the Maryland 4, setting up a fourth-down run by Rix for a 23-0 lead.
Downs lost a fumble on the Terrapins' next series, and Rix hit Gardner for a score on the first play.
"This was an important win for us," Boldin said. "They had something that we wanted. They won the ACC championship last year, and we wanted to come out tonight and take it back."