TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Maryland Terrapins on Saturday relinquished the lead during the final minute of a 29-26 loss to Florida State - the latest in a string of six straight losses that have raised questions about coach Ralph Friedgen's future with the team.
As of late Saturday, Friedgen had not heard from athletic director Deborah Yow about his status - but he was aware of rising speculation that he could be fired, said his attorney, Jack Reale.
However, Yow did contact a member of the football program and said she wanted to meet with the team Monday, according to a source close to the situation. Yow did not return telephone calls or an e-mail message from The Baltimore Sun on Saturday night.
There was no indication that Yow planned to announce a coaching change at the meeting. In fact, the source said, Yow indicated she was trying to discourage speculation about Friedgen's status and to tell players she appreciates them. The Terps, one of Friedgen's youngest teams, played better Saturday than in recent weeks.
Yow had said previously that Friedgen, like all coaches, would be evaluated after the season. Friedgen has two more full seasons remaining on his contract, worth about $2 million a year. In February, Yow signed a contract promising that the university would pay offensive coordinator James Franklin $1 million if he is not named to succeed Friedgen by early January 2012.
Saturday's defeat made this the first Terps team since 1997 to lose as many as nine games in a season. Maryland will play Boston College at Byrd Stadium on Saturday hoping to avoid becoming the first Terps football team to suffer 10 defeats in a year.
Maryland's performance this year clearly has upset Friedgen, Yow, various school boosters and fans. While fans on the Internet have called for Yow to fire Friedgen, he has the support of the leaders of two booster groups: the Terrapin Club and Maryland Gridiron Network.
Many expect a buyout of Friedgen would be too expensive for Maryland to endure given the soft economy and budget cuts.
Friedgen, 62, has a 66-45 record at Maryland in nine seasons. He has said publicly that he believes this season's tribulations will make the team "hungrier" next season. Reale said Friedgen "absolutely" expects to return.
In Florida on Saturday, Maryland (2-9, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit to twice take second-half leads against a Seminoles team (6-5, 4-4 ACC) desperate for a win to become bowl-eligible.
What haunted Friedgen on Saturday were 4 minutes, 29 seconds. That was the time remaining on the Doak Campbell Stadium clock when the Terps took a lead they relinquished in the final minute.
"This was a win right there, four-and-a-half minutes to go," Friedgen said. "And all we had to do is take care of our business. When you've got a chance to pull the trigger, you've got to pull the trigger. We get that ball, four-and-a-half minutes to play, we've got to be playing as hard as we possibly can play."
Trailing 22-19, Maryland - boosted all day by the return of tailback Da'Rel Scott (83 rushing yards) from a wrist injury that had sidelined him for five games - drove 79 yards in 12 plays. On third-and-1 from the 9, tailback Davin Meggett ran into the end zone for his second touchdown with 4:29 left.
Nursing a four-point lead, Maryland punter Nick Ferrara tried unsuccessfully to angle the ball out of bounds and away from Greg Reid, the ACC's leading punt returner.
Reid caught the ball on his 8 and weaved 48 yards to set up the Seminoles on the Maryland 44.
"When you kick to the right, sometimes it hooks. I think that's what happened," Friedgen said. "Fifty-six minutes to play your butt off and we don't come out with a win. That's what's very disheartening."
It took Florida State four plays to take the lead for good on Lonnie Pryor's 3-yard touchdown run with 32 seconds left.
Maryland's final drive culminated in a reception by Adrian Cannon followed by three laterals, ending with the ball near the Florida State 45.
"I knew they were going to give me the ball with a couple seconds left and we practice it every day," said Maryland quarterback Jamarr Robinson, who passed the ball more effectively (20 of 27, 214 yards) than in his first career start the previous Saturday against Virginia Tech.
"I got excited," Robinson said of the series of laterals that momentarily appeared to give the Terps hope.
Florida State's win salvaged what would have been a disastrous game for embattled coach Bobby Bowden, trying to get the Seminoles to a bowl game for the 28th straight season. Had the Seminoles lost, they would have needed to upset undefeated Florida on the road next week to advance to a bowl.
"It's hard to believe we won it," Bowden said. "You look up and say, 'Gosh, you just lost it.' Then you pull it out."
Maryland had practiced for the game last week by piping in audio of the Seminoles fans' "war chant." But the announced crowd of 66,042 - capacity is 82,300 - was not one of the school's biggest or loudest. There were plenty of open bleacher seats in the end zones and corners, despite warm, inviting weather. It was also "Senior Day" and the final game for longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.
It's the first nine-loss season for the Terps since 1997, when Ron Vanderlinden's team finished 2-9. The regular-season schedule went from 11 games to 12 games beginning in 2006.
Maryland stayed close with three interceptions, including one returned 82 yards by linebacker Alex Wujciak to set up a second-quarter touchdown.
The Terps entered the game having not scored an offensive touchdown in the six quarters since quarterback Chris Turner sprained his knee against North Carolina State and was replaced by Robinson. That streak stretched to nearly eight quarters before Meggett scored on a 1-yard run to reduce Florida State's lead to 14-13 with six seconds left in the first half.
After that, Maryland moved the ball well, holding it nearly three times longer in the second half than Florida State.
Scott, who played with a protective sleeve over his wrist, credited Maryland's beleaguered offensive line.
"They just played their heart out," Scott said. "They protected well."
Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus contributed to this article.
0 13 0 13-26
7 7 0 15-29
First quarter FSU-Thomas 3 run (Hopkins kick), 4:39. Second quarter Md-FG Ferrara 44, 9:26. FSU-Pryor 50 run (Hopkins kick), 8:35. Md-FG Ferrara 39, 4:28. Md-Meggett 1 run (Ferrara kick), :06. Fourth quarter Md-Cannon 20 pass from Robinson (pass failed), 12:40. FSU-Reed 42 run (Easterling pass from Manuel), 10:30. Md-Meggett 9 run (Ferrara kick), 4:29. FSU-Pryor 3 run (Hopkins kick), :32. A-66,042.
First downs 20 18
Rushes-Yards 46-196 24-198
Passing 214 206
Cmp.-Att.-Int. 20-27-0 17-27-3
Return Yards 119 88
Punts-Avg. 4-43.0 3-47.7
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-0
Penalties-Yds. 5-30 0-0
Time of poss. 37:05 22:55
Rushing-Maryland, Scott 19-83, Meggett 13-59, Robinson 12-58, Smith 2-(minus 4). Florida St., Pryor 2-57, Manuel 6-49, Thomas 11-44, Reed 3-42, Pressley 1-4, T.Jones 1-2. Passing-Maryland, Robinson 20-27-0-214. Florida St., Manuel 17-27-3-206. Receiving-Maryland, Smith 7-74, Cannon 4-72, Williams 2-29, Scott 2-21, Tyler 2-8, D.Campbell 2-(minus 4), L.Watson 1-14. Florida St., Fortson 5-71, Owens 5-52, Easterling 2-36, Reed 2-18, Pryor 1-12, Thomas 1-12, Reliford 1-5.
BOSTON COLLEGE@ MARYLAND
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