Nov 17, 2001
Get Your ACC Champs T-shirt Here!
By DAVID DROSCHAK
AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. - The play that clinched Maryland's first outright Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 16 years hadn't been used since fall camp.
That's the same time first-year coach Ralph Friedgen began building a winning attitude among a group of players who refused to quit again Saturday night.
The Fridge and his No. 10 Terrapins rallied late to slam the door on Florida State's nine-year run as ACC champions, becoming one of the more unlikely champions in league history with a 23-19 win over North Carolina State.
"I told them earlier that if you take this into life with you and work through it you can do anything," Friedgen said. "And they did. These guys fought for it. We beat everybody we needed to beat."
Maryland went from 5-6 last year to 10-1 under its rotund coach and now awaits its first major bowl bid since the 1977 Cotton as the ACC's Bowl Championship Series representative.
"(Friday) night I told them win or lose they were a special team to me," Friedgen said. "With a win here they're a special team to everybody."
"Shaun looked at me and gave me a signal and I was like, `We haven't run that since camp,"' Gary said. "So, I lined up and he put me in single and everybody else on the other side. He looked at me and said, `It's you or nothing."'
Friedgen said his team ran two-minute drills Monday and Thursday and did a poor job executing.
"It's ironic," Friedgen said. "I wasn't happy with it (in practice). In fact, we threw an interception so we did it again. Our guys were confident with it though."
N.C. State (6-4, 4-4) saw its three-game winning streak come to a close in dramatic fashion on its home turf. The Wolfpack beat Florida State last week 34-28 and were gunning for consecutive wins over top 10 teams for the first time in school history.
"This just shows you the difference between winning and losing and how sour it makes you feel," Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato said.
"I personally apologize for not playing the game at the end to win as opposed not to lose, but that was the right thing to do."
Friedgen pumped his first in the air as the clock hit zero, becoming the first coach to win the ACC crown in his initial season in the league, going 7-1. He also led the Terrapins to their first 10-win season since 1976 and fifth in school history.
|Rich Parson makes a deep grab for the potential go-ahead TD, but fumbles on the half-yard line.|
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|Shaun Hill slings the ball 8 yards to the sure-hander Guilian Gary for the game-winning touchdown.|
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|Phillip Rivers rolls out and finds Cotra Jackson giving the Wolfpack the lead with four minutes to go.|
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The Maryland players raced over to the school band after the game and jumped up and down as fans threw oranges on the field to signal a possible Orange Bowl berth.
N.C. State took a 19-16 lead with 3:59 left as Philip Rivers completed 8 of 9 passes on an 80-yard drive.
And Maryland looked like it lost a chance to win the ACC title outright when N.C. State's Lamont Reid ran down Rich Parson from behind on a long pass play, forcing a fumble at the Wolfpack 1 with 2:51 left.
"This team it pretty good with letting bad things slid off us," Hill said. "We never got discouraged and we stayed with it. That was the key."
After the turnover, the Terrapins held, and got the ball back with 2:18 remaining.
`We felt it we made one first down and the game was over," Amato said. "But it's a 60-minute football game and you have to credit Maryland. They never doubted at all they were going come back and do it."
Hill, who threw two TD passes and ran for another score, completed a fourth-and-5 play early in the winning drive to keep the 61-yard march alive.
He then completed two more passes before his game-winning play to Gary in the front right of the end zone.
Hill finished 27-for-41 for 296 yards, while Rivers threw for 275.
Maryland didn't take its first lead until 8:51 left in the third quarter when Hill led the Terrapins on a time-consuming 15-play drive, capped by his 5-yard TD pass to Gary.
Adam Kiker's fourth field goal five minutes later gave the Wolfpack the lead again in the tight defensive struggle and set up the final drama over the last three minutes.
Two of the top four scoring teams in the ACC managed a combined 12 points on four field goals in the opening 30 minutes.
Maryland, second in the nation in turnover margin, coughed it up twice in less than nine minutes as Bruce Perry fumbled and Hill was picked off at the goal line by Julius Patterson, who also recovered Perry's fumble.
Patterson's 67-yard return set up the first of Kiker's three field goals for the Wolfpack.
Maryland had scored 16 straight times in the red zone prior to Patterson's pick.
Kiker's other two field goals came after 15- and 13-play drives by the Wolfpack in the second quarter which ate up more than 11 minutes. Kiker's career-best 41-yarder 1:38 before the half gave the Wolfpack a 9-0 lead.