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Florida State turns over its share of Atlantic Division lead

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Florida State coach Bobby Bowden remembered 1992, when Charlie Ward lined up in the shotgun and the Seminoles came from behind to win 29-24. Bowden considered it one of the best comeback wins the program has had since he's been there.

But pulling it off on Saturday afternoon, he said, would have been even better.

"Today I think would've been much bigger, if we could have come back today, because today we had to come back time after time," Bowden said. "We were down 14 one time, I think, and down 11, and we could've come back and won the dadgum ball game."

But they didn't.

For the first time in three games, Florida State (6-2, 3-2) couldn't play its way out of a deficit and lost 31-28 to Georgia Tech. Not only did they turn the ball over on their final, harried possession which ended with a fumble in the end zone, but the Seminoles squandered their share of the Atlantic Division lead.

Now, first place belongs solely to Maryland, and Florida State, a program trying desperately to improve upon its back-to-back 7-6 seasons, is still one win shy of bowl eligibility. The Seminoles have no choice but to win out, and unless Maryland and Wake Forest wind up with worse conference records, even that won't be enough.

Their season of comebacks likely ended today.

Three straight Atlantic Division opponents -- including Maryland -- remain on the Noles' schedule before their season finale against Florida.

"We're trying to encourage the other players to keep your head up, stay motivated and overall as a team we know what we've got to do," said running back Jermaine Thomas. "We have to finish out this season, and we're going to go to practice on Monday and continue to get better."

Florida State had trailed by as many as 10 points in each of their past two games, and fell behind by as much as 14 at Georgia Tech, trailing 24-10 in the second quarter.

"We fought back real hard, we just made a couple of mistakes," said Thomas. "We thought we should've done better but we all have the mindset of going to practice on Monday and working hard and putting this game behind us.

"We win together, we lose together," he said. "We thought we had it. This is an experience we'll learn from and get better from. We all have each other's backs. We're trying to keep each other's spirits up and move forward."

Florida State brought the nation's No. 7 rushing defense into Bobby Dodd Stadium but still could not stop Georgia Tech's triple option offense. The Noles were holding opponents to 79.9 rushing yards per game, and the Yellow Jackets finished with 288.

"I'm proud of our boys for fighting back," Bowden said. "We simply couldn't stop the wishbone. We could not stop it. They just get too far ahead. That's the last time we'll see it this year."

They only needed to see it once to change the course of their season.