Nov 9, 2002
By JOSEPH WHITE
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Maryland has just about mastered the cliffhanger victory over N.C. State.
Nick Novak kicked a 26-yard field goal with 34 seconds remaining Saturday, extending the Terrpains' winning streak to seven with a 24-21 victory over No. 14 North Carolina State.
The Terrapins overcame a 14-point second-half deficit to make it three consecutive last-second victories over the Wolfpack. Last year, Maryland clinched the ACC title with a touchdown with 41 seconds left, and two years ago the Terrapins won in double overtime.
"Right now, it seems like they got our number," N.C. State linebacker Dantonio Burnette said. "Three years straight, it's been down to the wire, and it seems like their guys end up making the plays."
The victory moves Maryland (8-2, 4-1) into second place in the conference, putting it on pace for a New Year's Day bowl game. N.C. State (9-2, 4-2) has lost two straight after starting 9-0, and they are the highest ranked opponent to lose to Maryland in 12 years.
"We're in it now," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Every game is huge. I think our kids showed their character today. We kept making mistakes - penalties, delay of games, 12 people in the huddle - and we had to do some things that were a little different for us, we expanded the offense a little. N.C. State did a good job of taking our normal stuff away. We adapted."
Maryland got the ball with 3:22 remaining and drove 51 yards on its final drive, benefiting from a generous spot - which both coaches acknowledged - on a third-and-2 option run by quarterback Scott McBrien.
On the next play, McBrien got his only downfield completion of the game, a 36-yard pass to Steve Suter, to put the Terrapins in field goal position.
"I felt myself getting behind the defender," Suter said. "I knew I was open and he made a great pass. I just had to make sure I caught it."
N.C. State had a chance to tie in the final seconds as it drove into the Maryland territory, but Philip Rivers' long pass was intercepted by Raymond Custis inside the 20 with 14 seconds to play.
"It's frustrating, but we're going to fight our way out of it because we can still have an outstanding football season," N.C. State coach Chuck Amato said. "This was the hottest team in the conference, and it took them 60 minutes to beat us. If they're the hottest team, we're the second hottest team because it took the full 60 minutes."
Suter, better known for his four punt return touchdowns this season, also scored his first career rushing touchdown in the second quarter on a 64-yard reverse.
McBrien was just 10-for-18 for 130 yards, but he tied the game with 9:26 to play on a 21-yard touchdown run after the Wolfpack fell for his brilliant fake handoff up the middle to Chris Downs. The score was set up by Domonique Foxworth's 26-yard interception return.
Bruce Perry, last year's ACC offensive player of the year, scored his first touchdown of the season on a 9-yard run to pull Maryland within seven, 21-14, in the third quarter. Perry had one carry all season entering the game because of groin and shoulder injuries, and he finished with 23 yards on 10 carries.
Rivers was 24-for-40 for 297 yards, but he struggled under Maryland's pressure late in the game and had eight straight incompletions in the fourth quarter. Jerrico Cotchery caught a career-high 12 passes for 144 yards before severely spraining his ankle on the final series. Josh Brown had 70 yards rushing, mostly after T.A. McLendon left in the first half with a shoulder injury.
McLendon's X-rays were negative, but those injuries - plus guard Shane Riggs' sprained right knee - were Amato's main concern.
"I worry more about the injury scars than the mental scars right now," Amato said. "Cotchery, Riggs and T.A., that's three big ones on the offense."
Amato also lamented Adam Kiker's missed 28-yard field goal attempt, which would have given the Wolfpack at 10-point lead with 11:20 to play.
"If we make the field goal, the energy might have been out of them," Amato said. "We missed ours, they made theirs, and that's the difference in the game."