TALLAHASSEE — For a moment, the Seminoles' coaches contemplated trying to block a Maryland punt near midfield in the waning minutes.
"I said, 'Nah, let's return it,' " coach Bobby Bowden said. "I was afraid if we tried to block it, we might rough him and then they'd run the clock out."
The staff agreed, and why wouldn't you want to give freshman Greg Reid a shot to make a play? A week earlier, he returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown, and he was second nationally coming into Saturday's game with 16.38 yards per return.
"You've got to give that guy touches," offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. "He's going to make you mad every now and then, but Lord almighty, he makes so many good things happen."
This time, with his team down 26-22, he fielded the punt near the sideline at his own 8, played off his blocks and took off for a 48-yard return that ignited the winning drive.
"We practice angles at practice on punt returns so I knew once I saw Mister (Alexander) have a good angle on the dude, so I just kind of cut off him," Reid said. "I saw Bert (Reed), I know Bert's going to block for me. I just followed him through the hole."
"He gave you momentum," Bowden said. "In a game like that where it's dull and nothing's happening except they're taking the ball and won't give it up, all of a sudden you get an exciting play and it seems to rejuvenate the entire team. That's what his punt return did."
Bowl picture: The Seminoles are bowl eligible and will extend their NCAA-leading streak to 28 appearances.
"Well, that's good," Bowden said. "You start out the season, everybody's undefeated; you want to win the conference championship. You want to go to a BCS bowl. You want to do this, you want to do that. All of a sudden, you can't do that one, you can't do this. What do you have left? Well, go to a bowl. … It's significant."
Now it's just a matter of where they'll end up. It seems likely they'll head to the Music City Bowl against an SEC team (perhaps South Carolina for one last Bowden-Steve Spurrier showdown) on Dec. 27 in Nashville; or the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 26 in San Francisco against a Pac-10 team.
All-star tribute: Almost three dozen former FSU star defensive players came out to help honor retiring defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, who came to FSU in 1984. The players included Peter Boulware, Paul McGowan, Corey Sawyer, Corey Simon and Terry Warren. Before the game, Bowden, president T.K. Wetherell and athletic director Randy Spetman greeted Andrews and his family at midfield. Wetherell gave Andrews, 68, scholarship letters for his five grandchildren to attend FSU. Andrews also received a garnet-colored Ford truck from his former players. After the coin toss, Andrews plunged the flaming spear into the ground.
New uniforms: FSU wore the Nike Pro-Combat uniform — one of 10 schools selected to test drive the new, lightweight design — as well as a new black helmet with a spear. The Seminoles have worn a helmet with a base color other than gold only once, at the 1968 Peach Bowl when they had a garnet-based helmet with a white stripe and FS in white, block letters on the side. FSU plans to keep the uniforms and may use them again.