On a November night in 2007, Maryland recruit Joe Vellano sat in the Byrd Stadium stands as a high school senior and watched the Terps upset Matt Ryan-led Boston College to gain its second win of the season over a Top 10 team.
Vellano enrolled at Maryland the next year. The defensive lineman — who is listed as questionable heading into his final home game Saturday against No. 10 Florida State — went on to become an All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer and a second-team Walter Camp All-American in 2011.
But Vellano and the rest of the 17-member senior class have never been part of a team that achieved what the Terps did Nov. 10, 2007. Maryland has had plenty of victories over ranked teams during Vellano's career, but its 42-35 win over No. 8 Boston College was the program's last win over a Top 10 team.
Vellano and the Terps get one more chance for such a victory against the Seminoles, but it is a long shot.
The Seminoles bring gaudy statistics to College Park. Their defense is ranked first in the nation (242.9 yards per game). They are surrendering an average of 74.3 rushing yards and are scoring 43.1 points per game.
Meanwhile, Maryland (4-6, 2-4 ACC) has lost four games in a row. The Terps haven't scored more than two touchdowns in a game since Caleb Rowe — the last of their healthy quarterbacks — tore an anterior cruciate ligament against Boston College on Oct. 27 and freshman linebacker Shawn Petty was inserted at the position.
It all leaves Vellano and the other seniors knowing they face the steepest of odds Saturday but trying to visualize ways they can stay afloat.
"College football is crazy," Vellano said. "You make a couple plays early and a guy is playing hot and anything can happen. Just don't let them jump on you fast. Don't be hesitant."
Top 10 victories are memorialized on Maryland's campus. The Terps have "tombstones" near the practice fields with the names of Top 10 teams they have beaten. The last two were Boston College and No. 10 Rutgers.
"The senior class, they haven't gotten a tombstone game and they're just champing at the bit to get one," said center Evan Mulrooney, a redshirt freshman. "That really motivates us. Legacy is important, and we love these big games, these tombstone games. We're treating [Florida State] just like any other team. They're not the New England Patriots."
If Florida State (9-1, 6-1) wins, it captures the Atlantic Division title and a berth in the ACC championship game.
"We need to play a perfect game," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "If we want to have a chance to win, we've got to play a perfect game and get turnovers against them. That's what we have to do."
Petty, in his third start at quarterback, will be one of the keys.
In his first start, the freshman had two touchdown passes to Stefon Diggs against Georgia Tech — one on the last play of the game. In his two games, he's completed 15 of 30 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns. He has been intercepted once but has had fumble problems, losing the ball in both contests.
Maryland has scaled back the playbook to accommodate Petty.
"Well, it's probably less than 50 percent [of the plays] that you have in," Edsall said. "You don't want to overload the kid."
Maryland will again wear special "Black Ops" uniforms that feature black from head to toe. Fans are also encouraged to wear black.
Maryland is also hoping to get a lift from the emotions of Senior Day. The class includes Vellano, defensive lineman A.J. Francis and linebackers Kenneth Tate and Demetrius Hartsfield, among other starters. Hartsfield is out with a season-ending knee injury.
The seniors, accompanied by family members, will be introduced on the field before the game. "This is really, truly a special day," Tate said.
No. 10 Florida State (9-1, 6-1 ACC) @ Maryland (4-6, 2-4)
Site: Byrd Stadium
When: Saturday, noon
Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM
Series: Florida State leads 20-2.
Last meeting: Florida State def. Maryland, 41-16, on Oct. 22, 2011, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Maryland offense vs. Florida State defense: Maryland hasn't beaten Florida State since 2006, and a Seminoles win will clinch the Atlantic Division title. This will be the third start at quarterback for former linebacker Shawn Petty, and he goes against a defense ranked in the top five nationally in five categories. Maryland hopes to get back receiver-returner Stefon Diggs (ankle), who is listed as probable. But leading rusher Wes Brown (ankle, shoulder) is out. Florida State defensive end Cornelius "Tank" Carradine had 11 tackles and a sack in a win over Virginia Tech last week.
Florida State offense vs. Maryland defense: Quarterback E.J. Manuel threw for more than 300 yards last week for the third time this season and fifth in his career. The Seminoles, who are averaging 43.1 points, are second in the ACC in rushing offense. Led by Joe Vellano, Maryland's defense ranks second in the ACC in yards allowed (315.1 yards per game). Vellano (ankle) is listed as questionable.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun