COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) – The heck with tiebreakers. As far as Jimbo Fisher is concerned, his initial season at Florida State will include at least a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference division title.
Christian Ponder threw for 170 yards and a touchdown, and Florida State beat Maryland 30-16 Saturday night to remain in the hunt to play in the ACC title game.
Florida State (8-3, 6-2) has completed the league portion of its schedule and can finish no worse than tied atop the Atlantic Division. But if North Carolina State (8-3, 5-2) defeats Maryland on Saturday, the Wolfpack wouldgain a share of first place and would win the tiebreaker because of their 28-24 win over FSU last month.
“No matter what, you’re at least a co-champion of this league. That was one of our goals, to be the champion of this league,” said Fisher, who took over for Bobby Bowden. “We did what we could do. We had a chance to be 8-0, but six wins is a step in the right direction. Those seniors can at least say they were co-champions of this division.”
The Terrapins (7-4, 4-3) were eliminated from contention. Maryland, which became the last ACC team to lose at home this season, needed to beat the Seminoles and Wolfpack to win the division crown for the first time.
Down 23-16, Maryland drove to the Florida State 19 in the final minute before Nick Moody intercepted a fourth-down pass by redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien and took it 90 yards for the clinching score with 36 seconds left.
The Seminoles took advantage of four Maryland turnovers, including two interceptions and a fumble in the fourth quarter after FSU took a 20-16 lead. The Terrapins came in with an ACC-low eight turnovers in 10 games.
“We won the turnover battle, and that’s critical,” Fisher said.
“The bottom line is when you turn the ball over, you’re going to lose,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “We made a lot of mistakes, but we’re getting better. We’re going to beat one of these teams pretty soon.”
When Maryland and Florida State met under similar circumstances at Byrd Stadium two years ago, the Seminoles rolled to a 37-3 victory. This game was decidedly different: Neither team led by more than seven points until the closing seconds and the lead changed hands three times.
But in the end, FSU again beat Maryland — for the 19th time in 21 games in his lopsided series.
Chris Thompson ran for 95 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown, Ponder completed 16 of 26 passes and Bert Reed had six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown for the Seminoles.
Da’Rel Scott gained 87 yards rushing for the Terrapins and Davin Meggett ran for 72 yards. O’Brien went 25 for 45 for 269 yards and a touchdown.
Maryland took a 16-13 lead in the third quarter on a 32-yard field goal by Travis Baltz after Thompson lost a fumble at the FSU 47.
Florida State answered with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Ponder to Reed, who caught a short throw over the middle and weaved his way through the Maryland secondary into the end zone.
Greg Reid then intercepted a pass by O’Brien at the Maryland 43. The Seminoles ended up punting, but the kick hit Maryland’s Cameron Chism and was recovered by FSU. That led by a field goal by Dustin Hopkins for a 23-16 lead with 4:37 left.
The Terrapins wore black helmets for the first time this season, along with black jerseys and pants with camouflage trim to support the Wounded Warrior Project. Maryland fans were also dressed in black.
The crowd received an emotional boost when the Terrapins took a 3-0 lead on a 31-yard field goal by Baltz. On the first play after the kickoff, however, Thompson burst through a hole on the left side and sprinted 70 yards for a score.
O’Brien then lost a fumble when hit in the pocket by Brandon Jenkins, setting up a field goal for a 10-3 FSU lead.
On the ensuing series, Reid leveled Scott as he was about to catch a short pass. FSU’s Mike Harris gathered in the deflection and took it to the end zone, but Reid was called for a hit to the helmet, keeping the drive alive.
O’Brien ended the 80-yard march with a 7-yard TD pass to tight end Will Yeatman.
After Hopkins missed a 37-yard field goal try, Maryland went up 13-10 when Baltz connected on a 32-yard attempt following an interception by Kenny Tate.
Florida State faked a punt late in the half, which led to a 30-yard field goal by Hopkins that ricocheted off the left upright.