I have no words. After three straight last-minute losses, it's as tough to be a blogger as it is to be a fan.
Well, actually, I do have words, but I'm not writing a formal recap for this one. This is the first loss in a long time that has really hurt. This loss reminded me, if nothing else, that my fanhood still exists. I guess that's nice, but I wish it wasn't so painful. In fact, a lot of this recap is written more from a fan perspective, so I apologize in advance for that.
Maryland wasn't really supposed to be in this game. Not until the game started did I think they had an actual chance. As it so happens, they did and they played like it. The Terps took FSU to the wire and were a lot of any one of many very small things occurring away from stealing a win. Those things didn't happen, and instead Florida State won 30-16 in a game closer than the score. Maryland's season is now over in the sense that they're not competing for the ACC title anymore; in fact, a win next week would put FSU in the title game, as much as that hurts.
In the end, it was a Danny O'Brien interception with the ball on the Florida State 19 that was returned for a touchdown that cost Maryland most directly, but a variety of things hurt. Let's take a look.
James Franklin's second-half play-calling, which resulted in only 3 points set up by a Kenny Tate interception, was a big reason (hey, bubble screen! hey, another bubble screen! another bubble screen!). This team went from taking a page out of the Texas middle school book in the first half on a crucial third down to calling short WR pass after short WR pass. I understand the reasoning of it - FSU was sitting back in coverage - but this offense did nothing and made no adjustments past halftime.
So, too, was officiating. For all that Tomahawk Nation is going to say that the Noles overcame the refs, it's really not the case. If you're a long-time reader, you'll know I don't blame officiating. It's not something I do. The teams have to deal with the same refs and it's normally no different than the weather. Not today.
There were a few iffy calls throughout, but the only seriously egregious call came in the 4th quarter, when Greg Reid "intercepted" a Danny O'Brien pass. Note: he didn't actually intercept it. And it wasn't even close. But the referees didn't overturn the call despite having rather obvious video evidence. That was a major turning point in the momentum of the game.
Then came the terrible luck. I've been hard on Cameron Chism. I'll give him props today: he was pretty good. He had two PBUs and a huge forced/recovered fumble combo. And, more than anything, I feel bad for him. He didn't notice the punt that was about to hit him in the back and hand FSU three more points and one more minute of clock. It wasn't really his fault, but instead just terrible luck. It hurts, and you have to feel for him after the year he's had.
There were other weird bounces. Dustin Hopkins nailed the left upright on a kick that bounced in instead of out. Later, he missed a FG that was called back thanks to, of course, a Florida State false start.
Believe you me, I'm not just pointing all of that stuff out to blame the loss on all this ethereal stuff (plus James Franklin). Maryland turned the ball over 4 times. They only forced 2 turnovers. They couldn't tackle at times. They had no second half offense. There were a variety of ways they could've won this game.
No, I don't point all of that stuff out out not to complain or say that Maryland should've won, that the Terps were the better team and all that. Maybe they were. I don't really know. History would disagree with that assessment, but that doesn't really matter.
All I know is that they almost did win and all it took would've taken was some any of those fluky things turning out differently. That is what makes this game so frustrating.
There are positives, of course. The running game looked fine, great even. Danny O'Brien's a future star. They played hard. And hey, they weren't supposed to be in this game. It's tough to be at all angry at this performance, especially when combined with all the wacky stuff that happened earlier. Please don't take this post as me melting down after a respectable loss.
But unlike the past two games in basketball, there's no more opportunities to achieve this goal. There was a one-off, and Maryland didn't get it. There's no moral victory when you're playing for next season. Again, it's tough to get too upset about it, but I said it on Twitter and I stick by it: this wasn't a loss to be ashamed of, but it's still frustrating. Not because Maryland wasn't good enough or played too poorly, but because they almost were good enough.
It hurts. Three losses in three days, all of them close and hard-fought. I'll put my blogger hat back on tomorrow and push out the grades at some point within the next 12 hours or so, but I need sleep. The season's basically over at this point as far as the ACC picture goes. I'm reaching a depression point in the sports world.