RALEIGH, N.C. -- Injured Maryland defensive tackle Lubo Zizakovic virturally playing with one leg during the entire second half. Terps wide receiver Gene Thomas outleaping two defenders, not once, but twice for passes, including one for a touchdown. Running back Troy Jackson running over a linebacker for a 3-yard touchdown. Senior center and co-captain Mitch Suplee hugging his mother on the field after the game, then crying.
These were some of the scenes yesterday, as Maryland lost to No. 22 North Carolina State, 20-17, before 36,491 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
It was a gutty performance by the Terps, who battled through the controversy surrounding the future of their coach the past two weeks, and who trailed, 14-0, in the first quarter yesterday.
But determination was not enough, as Wolfpack place-kicker Damon Hartman kicked a 29-yard field goal with 7 minutes, 1 second left to seal the win for N.C. State.
The victory gave N.C. State (9-2, 5-2 ACC) its first nine-win season since 1974. It is headed for the Peach Bowl against East Carolina on New Year's Day.
Maryland's direction isn't so clear. The Terps (2-9, 2-5) concluded their worst season since 1971, and Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger will meet with head coach Joe Krivak tomorrow to begin evaluating the program.
Geiger has said he is 95 percent certain Krivak, who finished the first season of a four-year contract, will return for the 1992 season. Krivak has a 20-34-2 record in five years at Maryland with only one winning season.
"You look out there today, and you see guys giving great effort, and you think about what could have been," said Larry Webster, Maryland's senior defensive tackle. "It was one of the worst seasons Maryland has had, and we were a part of it. It hurts."
Krivak said: "When we were down, 14-0, early, we could have gone belly up, but I am pleased with the way our guys kept on playing and didn't give up. We had a chance to make the plays, but did not come through. I said at the beginning of the season that I like this football team, and I still feel that way despite a 2-9 record."
Maryland didn't play anything like a 2-9 team yesterday. The Terps had 296 yards of total offense and averaged 4.8 yards per play. Maryland's Jim Sandwisch, the worst-rated quarterback in
the conference, finished his collegiate career with his best performance, completing 15 of 25 passes for 195 yards.
Maryland tied it, 17-17, with 12:50 left, when Jackson ran 3 yards around right end, ran over one defender and hurled his body over two more into the end zone. The touchdown was set up by a 41-yard pass from Sandwisch to Thomas a play earlier.
But the Wolfpack came back, going 68 yards in 13 plays, setting up Hartman's 29-yard field goal. Maryland had two other possessions after the scoring drive, but one ended at the Maryland 44 and another at the Maryland 37.
The last one caused some second-guessing of Krivak, because he decided to punt on fourth-and-10 with 3:38 left.
"No, I didn't consider going for the first down," said Krivak. "It was not like it was fourth-and-five, it was fourth-and-10. I didn't feel like I wanted to give up the field position, and, if we forced them to punt, we had pretty good field position with at least two timeouts left."
Sandwisch agreed with Krivak's decision.
"There was still too much time left," said Sandwisch. "All we had to do was stop them on defense, but they moved the ball. It was a good call."
Maryland had trouble stopping North Carolina State early, too. -- The Wolfpack, which had 450 yards of total offense, scored on its first two possessions. Junior tailback Anthony Barbour, who had 171 yards on 24 carries, scored on N.C. State's first play from scrimmage, going 75 yards for a touchdown just 19 seconds into the game.
On N.C. State's next offensive possession, the Wolfpack went 70 yards in nine plays, with tailback Aubrey Shaw finishing the drive on a 1-yard run with 9:09 left in the quarter.
"That's where we could have folded," said Suplee. "There has been a lot going on around this program the last week or so, and it could have been easy for us to have no heart. But I think we showed a lot of character. A lot of these guys are self-motivated."
Besides injuries, that has been the team's biggest problem this year. Maryland played well against Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Duke, but was routed in games against Clemson, Penn State, Georgia Tech and West Virginia.
"Sometimes, I don't know where this team was mentally on game days," said Jackson.
Suplee said: "If I could answer that, I would be a rich man. I wish I knew. I know some of the players and coaches wish they knew."