COLLEGE PARK — Maryland entered Saturday night's game desperately seeking a signature win to crown its turnaround season.
The Terrapins had it all set up — the biggest home crowd of the year and a formidable opponent in Florida State that had won 18 of the previous 20 meetings and was trying to knock Maryland from contention in its Atlantic Coast Conference divisional race.
But Maryland failed on a last-minute attempt to tie or win the game before falling, 30-16. The Terps were eliminated from the Atlantic Division hunt with one regular-season game remaining.
"The tale tonight was turnovers," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "We turned it over four times. We hadn't been doing that."
"We made some mistakes which we haven't been making (before Saturday) and it cost us the game," Friedgen said.
Trailing 23-16, the Terps moved to Florida State's 19 and faced fourth and 7 with 54 seconds left. Quarterback Danny O'Brien was pressured and his pass was intercepted by safety Nick Moody and returned 96 yards for a clinching touchdown.
O'Brien said he was looking for either tight end Will Yeatman or wide receiver Adrian Cannon.
"I had a little pressure. I had to at least try to give us a shot, not take a sack," the redshirt freshman said.
If Maryland had scored, the plan — never finalized — was to go for a two-point conversion to try to win the game, according to Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin. Friedgen said Florida State had "a pretty good kicker," and the Terps wanted to avoid overtime.
Earlier, the Terps (7-4, 4-3 ACC) had taken a 16-13 lead on Travis Baltz's 32-yard field goal with 5:27 left in the third quarter. The kick followed Maryland's second takeaway of the game — a fumble recovery by cornerback Cameron Chism at the Maryland 47.
But the Seminoles regained the lead when senior quarterback Christian Ponder, on third and 6, hit Bert Reed on a 44-yard pass play. Maryland safety Matt Robinson slipped trying to make the tackle.
Trailing 20-16, Maryland missed a chance to get the ball when Florida State's punt hit Chism and was recovered by Florida State's A.J. Alexander with about six minutes left. Florida State's Dustin Hopkins followed with a 34-yard field goal to make it 23-16 with 4:37 left.
Maryland and Florida State were playing what amounted an elimination game in their divisional race. The Terps needed to win Saturday night and then beat North Carolina State (8-3, 5-2 ACC) next weekend to claim the Atlantic Division and move to the conference championship game against Virginia Tech.
Three of Maryland's four ACC wins before Saturday were against teams with losing conference records, and the fourth was against Boston College, which is 4-4.
It looked — and felt — like a big game. The Terps hadn't played a game this meaningful since the Seminoles visited two seasons ago and beat Maryland, 37-3.
The Terps were hampered in the game by injuries. Maryland's reconfigured offensive line had to shuffled again due to first-half injuries to left guard Justin Lewis (knee) and center Bennett Fulper (hand). Tight tackle Paul Pinegar moved to center, true freshman Max Garcia made his debut at R.J. Dill's tackle position and Dill moved from the left to the right side.
Fulper returned in the second half, but Lewis did not. Garcia himself suffered an injury to a "lower extremity," according to Maryland.
Maryland designated it as a "blackout" game, and thousands of fans wore black. The Terps wore black and desert camouflage uniforms to mark not only the blackout game, but also the school's ongoing participation with the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides services for injured military service members and their families.