Seminoles clinch spot in ACC title game

COLLEGE PARK, Md.— Having realized

its quest to earn a berth in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game,

No. 10 Florida State can now turn its attention toward other objectives

— such as beating Florida, winning the league title and maybe, just

maybe, making a run at the national championship.

Devonta Freeman ran for 148 yards and

two touchdowns, FSU’s top-ranked defense lived up to its billing and the

Seminoles rolled past Maryland 41-14 Saturday to capture the Atlantic

Division crown.

“One of our first goals is to win the

division,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Now we have to play the Florida

game, get in the ACC championship game and see where that goes.”

The Seminoles (10-1, 7-1) need a lot of

things to fall into place before they can begin thinking about finishing

No. 1. But who knows?

“Hey, there are still a lot of things

out there to play for,” Fisher said. “You don’t know what’s going to

happen these last two or three weeks. A guy loses here, a couple people

lose there…”

Regardless, FSU has already accomplished what Fisher called “one of our major goals.”

“Before you can talk about winning a

national championship, you’ve got to win your conference. You’ve got to

be able to win your division, and that’s what we did,” Fisher said. “And

also to have 10 regular-season wins, that’s the first time since that’s

happened since I don’t know when.”

The answer: 2003.

Florida State led 27-0 at halftime and

cruised to its fifth straight victory. In the process, the Seminoles

earned the right to play for their 13th ACC crown on Dec. 1.

“This has been one of our goals since camp time,” wide receiver Kenny Shaw said.

“I’m happy we won the game and clinched

it,” FSU defensive lineman Bjoern Werner said. “Now we got Florida next

and then we can go to Charlotte (N.C.). It’s awesome.”

EJ Manuel completed 17 of 23 passes for

144 yards and two scores to supplement a running game that gained 237

yards. In their previous game at Virginia Tech, the Seminoles were held

to minus-15 yards rushing.

“We just got back to fundamentals,” Fisher said. “We got good angles and we were being efficient at what we were doing.”

Operating against an injury-plagued

Maryland team using a linebacker at quarterback, Florida State allowed

27 yards and three first downs before halftime and ended up giving up

170 yards — well below their nation’s best average of 242.9 per game.

Were it not for a 42-yard touchdown

pass from Shawn Petty to Kevin Dorsey with 25 seconds left, the

Seminoles would have held the opposition under 10 points for the sixth

time in 11 games.

The defeat formally ended any chance

Maryland had of becoming bowl eligible. The Terrapins (4-7, 2-5) have

dropped five straight, the last three by a collective 119-37 score.

Maryland’s skid coincides with the loss

of its top four quarterbacks with season-ending injuries. Making his

third straight start, Petty went 8 for 19 for 136 yards and two

touchdowns but lost a fumble.

Any reasonable hope the Terrapins had

of pulling off an upset vanished after the Seminoles scored two

touchdowns in a 12-second span to take a 14-0 lead with less than six

minutes elapsed.

Maryland won the toss, deferred and

promptly yielded an 11-play, 61-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard run

by Freeman. Levern Jacobs fumbled the subsequent kickoff, FSU recovered

at the 10 and Manuel threw a first-down touchdown pass to tight end Nick

O’Leary.

“The one thing I told the team at the

end of the game was that we would have had to play a perfect game to

win,” coach Randy Edsall said. “We went down 7-0 and then fumbled, and

the next thing you know it’s 14-0 — and we fumbled again.”

Late in the first quarter, Petty botched a handoff and the Seminoles recovered the fumble at the Maryland 32.

After 15 minutes, the Seminoles had a

111-18 advantage in total yardage. On the second play of the second

quarter, Dustin Hopkins kicked a 26-yard field goal to make it 17-0 and

set a Football Bowl Subdivision record for career points by a kicker

(442). He added six more points to extend the mark to 448.

Florida State’s next drive began with a

21-yard pass from Manuel to O’Leary and ended with a 40-yard field

goal. Late in the half, Manuel directed a 70-yard march that ended with

his 30-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene.

In the third quarter, Petty threw a

33-yard touchdown pass to Dorsey on a fourth-down play. It was the final

home game for Dorsey and 16 other Maryland seniors, all of whom never

got the satisfaction of defeating a top-10 team.

Florida State went up 34-7 late in the

third quarter. After Freeman ran for 47 yards on a third-and-1, he

scored on the next play from the 2.

With Manuel and Freeman watching from

the sideline, the Seminoles added a fourth-quarter touchdown on a

22-yard run by James Wilder Jr.

Asked afterward how it felt to clinch

the division title, Manuel said, “It’s a great accomplishment, but we

know we have more games to win. I think we’ll be able to celebrate

everything at the end of the year.”