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EJ makes home debut as FSU tries to get bowl eligible

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State is hoping to become bowl eligible for the 28th straight season against Maryland on Saturday in a game that will be mostly about new quarterbacks and old coaches.

A win might help Florida State's embattled 80-year-old coach Bobby Bowden keep his job for one more year, while Maryland's Ralph Friedgen is hoping to end his young team's five-game losing streak.

The Seminoles (5-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) finish up a disappointing regular season Nov. 28 at top-ranked Florida, where the chances of an upset would seem remote in what has been one of Bowden's roughest seasons in a coaching career that began during the Eisenhower administration.

"It's been disappointing, the fact that we lost so many close games," said Bowden, who nears the end of his 34th season at Florida State and 55th on a college sideline. Four of the Seminoles' losses have been by eight or fewer points.

There are no conference titles or BCS games awaiting Bowden's once perennial national contenders.

But the venerable Florida State coach can still salvage a disappointing season by qualifying for another bowl appearance when super freshman quarterback EJ Manuel makes his home debut today. It is also the final time defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews will be on the sidelines for the Seminoles. The 68-year-old Andrews is retiring after 26 seasons running Florida State defenses.

But most eyes will be on the offense under Manuel, the No. 1 rated QB three years ago coming out of high school.

In his first start last week, Manuel hit 15 of 20 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown, throwing one interception just before the half to kill a scoring opportunity in a 41-28 win at Wake Forest.