TALLAHASSEE — Mickey Andrews, Florida State's retiring defensive coordinator, doesn't like to be the center of attention, but his players had other plans.
Shortly after the Seminoles rallied in the final moments to beat Maryland 29-26 in their home finale Saturday afternoon, a win they needed to become bowl eligible for a 28th straight year, Andrews' guys encircled him and gently hoisted him on their shoulders.
"If they had played as hard as they needed to, they wouldn't have had the energy to carry an old man," deadpanned Andrews, 68. "No. It was great. It was great."
"It was a spur of the moment thing that we decided we were going to do for him," senior safety Jamie Robinson said, "and take him out in style just because of everything he means to us and everything he's meant to this program."
Actually, Robinson, senior defensive tackle Justin Mincey and company had plenty of help.
Some of the heaviest lifting came compliments of freshman return specialist/defensive back Greg Reid, redshirt freshman quarterback EJ Manuel and finally freshman running back Lonnie Pryor.
With the Seminoles (6-5, 4-4 ACC) down 26-22 with less than two minutes left and facing the prospect of needing to beat No. 1 Florida next week to qualify for a bowl, Reid ignited his team and the fans at Doak Campbell Stadium.
A week after returning a punt 68 yards for a touchdown in a critical win at Wake Forrest, the speedy Reid returned a punt 48 yards to the Terrapins 44. From there, Manuel, who had been struggling in his second start in place of injured star Christian Ponder by throwing three interceptions, showed his uncommon poise and all-around ability.
"He kind of took the game in his own hands that last minute," coach Bobby Bowden said.
On successive plays, he coolly saw holes he could exploit, took off and gouged the Terrapins (2-9, 1-6), losers of six straight since upsetting Clemson, for gains of 15 then 20 yards.
"I took what they gave us," Manuel said. "I didn't do anything special. I just wanted to go out there and win."
He then hit receiver Taiwan Easterling for a 6-yard gain, setting up Pryor for a 3-yard touchdown run with 32 seconds left. It was Pryor's second touchdown of the game; he scored on an option pitch from 50 yards out midway through the second quarter.
"I said this when I was recruiting, he's 18 going on 30; he's a very mature guy," offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said of Manuel. "He's got that IT factor."
Given the way the Seminoles defense has struggled all season, uncharacteristic of an Andrews-coached unit during his 26-year tenure, no one was making bowl arrangements. But the defense held as time ran out and the Terrapins lateraled numerous times.
"Oh man, it would have been awful to send him out with a loss," Bowden said. "It would have been awful. I'm so glad he could go out with a win. We gave him a game ball after the game. Mickey's a great guy. I bet he'll shed a lot of tears, he's so sentimental. He won't let us see them."
He didn't even want the ride all the way to the locker room.
He convinced his players to let him down so he could trot the last 20 yards or so.
Said Andrews: ("My wife) Diane says I'm not good at showing my feelings, I think a lot of our players would disagree. I got a lot more than I deserve, I'll say that. … I don't think you could write a story and make it any better than it was today. Unless it was a shutout."
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.