TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Maryland had entered Doak Campbell Stadium buoyant and undefeated, believing it had finally amassed enough talent to reverse the weight of a history in which the football program had lost all 11 of its road games to No. 8 Florida State.
Instead, in their last visit here for an Atlantic Coast Conference game, the Terps (4-1, 0-1 ACC) encountered a dispiriting sense of sameness in a 63-0 defeat. Another blowout loss, the school's worst in 20 years. Another starting quarterback knocked from the game. And, this time, a promising season at least momentarily derailed.
Jameis Winston continued his dazzling start as Florida State's quarterback, completing 23 of 32 passes for 393 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. He has thrown 17 touchdown passes in five games — a school record for a freshman. It was Maryland's worst defeat since a 70-7 loss to Penn State in 1993 and its first shutdown a 31-0 loss at Virginia in 2008.
“To be honest, when I was on the sideline it kind of felt like I was in a bad dream,” said linebacker Cole Farrand (five tackles). “I wouldn't have expected this to happen in the slightest.”
The image Maryland fans might remember from the game is that of quarterback C.J. Brown being blasted in the chest and lying on the field before walking unsteadily into the locker room.
Brown, a fifth-year senior off to the best start of his career, was diagnosed with a concussion, and his status for next week's Virginia game was not immediately known.
Brown's injury occurred with Maryland trailing 14-0 in the second quarter. The Terps had punted the first three times they had the ball.
Brown — whose career has included two season-ending injuries — was slammed by defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel after delivering a throw. Brown stayed down for several minutes and was examined by trainers before departing.
On the sideline, Maryland coach Randy Edsall pointed to his head, appearing to suggest he believed McDaniel had led with his helmet. Officials didn't throw a flag.
After the game, Edsall declined to comment on the hit.
“I know what I was told by coaches,” Edsall said, “but I have not seen it myself on film, and I probably won't have any comment after that because all of these things are in the hands of the conference.”
McDaniel said of Brown: “I hope he is all right. When he threw the ball, I just continued to go through the play.”
Unable to move the ball effectively, Maryland was in trouble before Brown left and sophomore Caleb Rowe entered the game. But the play seemed to have a jarring effect.
“I just kind of turned around and saw him down on the ground,” center Sal Conaboy said. “It was tough to see a friend down on the ground with that.”
Rowe, who played capably last season when forced into duty before being sidelined by a knee injury, completed a 19-yard pass on his first play. He finished 9-for-17 for 119 yards.
“On the headset, I kind of heard, ‘Caleb, you're up.' So I put on a helmet and I was ready to go,” Rowe said. “Coach [Edsall] always preaches about being ready to play, and mentally, I make myself every week ready to play. I was ready to go.”
Maryland has an unfortunate history of having quarterbacks knocked from games after questionable hits. In his last visit here two seasons ago, Brown departed after a head-high tackle by linebacker Nigel Bradham that drew a flag. The quarterback was not seriously hurt.
Last season, quarterback Perry Hills was hit from behind after throwing an interception on a play that drew a flag against North Carolina State. He left the game with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Hills was one of four Maryland quarterbacks to suffer season-ending injuries last year. Maryland had hoped that its stunning run of bad quarterback luck had ended.
On Saturday, it was evident early that the Terps might be in trouble. Maryland, which entered averaging 39.8 points per game, had only 11 first-half rushing yards, making its offense one-dimensional.
“If you can't run the ball, that makes it tough,” Edsall said. “That was one of the matchups I was concerned about ... our offensive line against them.”
The closest Maryland came to scoring came with the Seminoles ahead 7-0 in the second quarter. The Terps moved to Florida State's 33 before kicker Brad Craddock hit the left upright on a 51-yard field-goal attempt.
Winston, who completed his first five passes, had thrown for 202 yards, and given the Seminoles a 21-0 lead, by halftime on a warm, sunny day in front of an announced 74,909. The crowd included a contingent of red-clad Maryland fans in one of the corner end-zone sections.
Winston entered the game having completed 73.6 percent of his passes this season. The Terps, whose 17 sacks ranked second in the Football Bowl Subdivision after Saturday's game, hoped to counter with pressure.
But Winston proved adept at handling the rush. His highlight-reel play came with Florida State leading 35-0. Winston ducked a high tackle attempt, moved to his right and found tight end Nick O'Leary on a 12-yard touchdown pass. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said it was a broken play and that Winston “should have done something else.”
Winston said Fisher wore a smirk on the sideline after the touchdown.
“When he has that smirk, he’s about to tell me that I did something wrong,” Winston said. “But he’s also about to tell me, ‘Great play, but don’t let it happen again.’”
Florida State (5-0, 3-0 ACC) has a bye week before traveling to Clemson (5-0, 3-0) in a game for first place in the Atlantic Division. Maryland next hosts Virginia (2-3, 0-1), the team it has played more than any other in its history.
Rowe said the Terps will need short memories to push past one of their worst days ever.
“Going through summer with these guys, going through all the workouts we had to go to, I know their heart,” Rowe said. “It's a tough loss, but it's something we can overcome. We've had experience overcoming things from last year.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun