COLLEGE PARK - The stage was set perfectly last night for the Maryland football team.
A near-sellout crowd of 47,044 came to Byrd Stadium along with the ESPN national television cameras and all the surrounding hype.
But the Terps fell flat on their faces early against the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles, who were barely tested on the way to a 59-7 victory in an Atlantic Coast Conference mismatch.
Heisman Trophy candidate Chris Weinke seemed like he was conducting an orchestra instead of quarterbacking a football team, and he walked off the stage early in the third quarter after he had led the No. 2 Seminoles (5-0) to a 38-7 lead.
Weinke was brilliant most of the evening as he found every weakness in the Maryland defense in the ACC opener for the Terps (2-2). When Weinke was through, he had completed 11 of 15 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns.
Weinke said: "We wanted to set the tempo early, and we accomplished that. Penalties hurt us early again, and this is something we'll have to correct, but overall the offense played well."
Weinke's three touchdown passes gave him 58 in his career, passing Danny Kanell on a night that Weinke said he "inverted my ankle on the second series of the game. Then I re-injured it early in the second quarter did not feel comfortable dropping back and putting pressure on it in the third quarter."
While Weinke starred despite his injury, Maryland's Calvin McCall never got the Terps' offense going. McCall completed three of 19 for 16 yards and one interception.
The Terps did not seem ready to play last night, committing costly penalties early, dropping passes and not applying much pressure on Weinke. Maryland's cornerbacks gave the Seminoles' speedy wide receivers too much room, and it was costly.
LaMont Jordan saved the home team nearly total embarrassment by rushing for 114 yards on 17 carries. Jordan's 74-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was all the fans had to cheer about.
There were three Maryland highlights in the first half, but the rest of the show belonged to the Seminoles, who rolled up 15 first downs to one for the Terps on the way to a 32-7 lead.
Weinke nonchalantly led Florida State up and down the field for 288 yards total offense compared with 105 for Maryland. After coming out throwing on the first drive, Weinke went to his rushing game and Travis Minor, William McCray and Jeff Chaney combined for 147 yards against a retreating Terps defense.
McCray scored on touchdown runs of 2 yards and 1 yard in the first half, but it was the 28-year-old Weinke who did most of the damage, completing eight of 12 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns.
On Weinke's first touchdown pass, he led split end Robert Morgan perfectly for a 58-yarder down the right sideline, running the Seminoles' lead to 19-0 with 13:56 left in the second quarter. Morgan beat redshirt freshman cornerback Curome Cox badly on the play.
The Weinke-to-Morgan touchdown came on Florida State's first offensive play after the Seminoles recorded a safety when McCall was sacked and fumbled the ball out of the end zone, giving the visitors a 12-0 advantage.
The Maryland highlights were brief but crowd-pleasing. Jordan burst up the middle against the vaunted Seminoles defense for a 74-yard touchdown run, cutting the lead to 25-7 with 5:25 left in the second quarter. Jordan pulled away from defensive end Jamal Reynolds at the Florida State 40 and waltzed into the end zone.
Maryland's two other big plays came on defense, with E.J. Henderson and Aaron Thompson taking turns sacking Weinke for losses of 7 and 17 yards.
Florida State cast aside its newfound rushing attack quickly in the first quarter, and Weinke went to work on Maryland's soft-playing cornerbacks to drive the Seminoles 59 yards in eight plays for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 4:24 into the game.
Weinke completed four of four for 36 yards in the early drive that ended with McCray scoring from 1 yard out. Two minutes later, Florida State used a 28-yard punt return by Clevan Thomasto set up a 44-yard field goal by Matt Munyon for a 10-0 lead with 5:27 leftin the first quarter.
NOTES: It is thought that one member of the seven-man Atlantic Coast Conference crew that officiated the Maryland-West Virginia game in Morgantown on Sept. 16 was suspended from working a Sept. 23 game by ACC football officials coordinator Tommy Hunt. The suspension was believed to be a result of some controversial calls that went against Maryland in a 30-17 loss. An ACC spokesman said, "Tommy is probably handling it internally." However, one person closeto the league said of the possible suspension, "You're on the right track."
An intriguing storing involving Marylands 25 year-old junior defensivetackle Chris Earhart, who gave up milking cows and driving a truck in Nokesville, Va., two years ago to attend Montgomery College, has apparently been spiked for the 2000 season. Earhart said last night that he has been switched to offensive guard and will probably redshirt this season.
"It's going to take me a while to learn the offense so I don't see myself playing this season," he said. "I haven't played in any games yet so I"m eligible toredshirt."
A moment of silence for Hall of Fame Maryland coach Jerry Claiborne was observed before the start of the game. Claiborne, 72, died Sunday of complications from abdominal surgery last Friday at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. Funeral services for Claiborne were held yesterday in Hopkinsville, Ky. Claiborne's son, Jonathan, was scheduled to be the color analyst on the Maryland football radio network last night but was replaced by Steve Stewart, giving the network an entirely new announcing team for the Florida State game. John Wagner handled the play-by-play for the third straight gamelist night, replacing Johnny Holliday who has been doing radio broadcastsfrom the Olympics in Sydney, Australia.