Terps toss their way to 38-31 win over N.C. State

Danny O'Brien hits Torrey Smith for four touchdown passes

  • Maryland Terrapins defensive lineman A.J. Francis (96) celebrates the win with QB Danny O'Brien (5) over the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Byrd Stadium.
Maryland Terrapins defensive lineman A.J. Francis (96) celebrates… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
November 27, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK – It took most of the season, but Maryland finally found what it was searching for on a cold, gusty Senior Night at Byrd Stadium.

Maryland's 38-31 win over No. 21 N.C. State in the last regular-season game gave the Terps (8-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) a long-awaited signature win against a ranked team. It allowed them to feel that their turnaround season was more complete and to hope that they may now be propelled into a desirable bowl game.

Saving its best for last, Maryland — which had trailed by two touchdowns early — scored 24 unanswered points, denying the Wolfpack a berth in the ACC championship game. The Atlantic Division title went instead to Florida State, which will meet Virginia Tech next week.

It was Maryland's first victory over an ACC team with a winning league record.

"Well, we beat somebody tonight," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, whose season has been all about restoring his team's swagger after last year's 2-10 disaster. "Hopefully, we'll start getting some respect."

Maryland won because of career days by redshirt freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien (33-of-47 for 417 yards and four touchdown passes) and receiver Torrey Smith (14 receptions for 224 yards and a school-record four touchdown catches). O'Brien became the first Terp since Scott Milanovich in 1993 to surpass 400 passing yards. Smith eclipsed LaMont Jordan's career Maryland record for all-purpose yards (4,960).

It may have been the last home game of Smith's career. The junior, a team leader who surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the season, must decide whether to leave early for the NFL.

"It's something I'll obviously have to investigate," Smith said. "I'll have to just weigh my options. I've got a single mother."

The Terps also won because their defense — which gave up 14 quick points in the first quarter — surrendered big yardage but made key stops on elusive Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson. N.C. State (8-4, 5-3 ACC) entered the game with the conference's top passing offense. On Saturday, Wilson completed 31 of 60 for 311 yards.

"We knew we had a huge challenge on our hands just getting him on the ground," Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown said.

Brown and Friedgen said they had been concerned about Maryland's frame of mind entering the contest. The Terps had been eliminated from ACC title contention by Florida State last week, and the coaches wanted to make sure there was no hangover from that defeat. Friedgen said he told his players after last week: "Sometimes it's darkest before the dawn. And if you keep persevering and keep working, sometimes good things happen."

Despite his speech, Maryland found itself trailing in the first quarter.

"He (Friedgen) just came over to us and started yelling," said senior linebacker Alex Wujciak, one of 16 Terps seniors for whom Saturday was the final home game. "It hasn't really hit me yet that it's my last (regular-season) game."

Maryland was also playing for bowl position. The Military Bowl, played at the District of Columbia's RFK Stadium on Dec. 29, said Saturday it wants the Terps. "We'd love to have Maryland," bowl president Steve Beck said. But Maryland knew a win could provide additional bowl options.

The game will be remembered for O'Brien's and Smith's peformances, but also for the cold. The game began with temperatures in the low 40s and winds gusting up to 26 miles per hour. It only got chillier after that, and the crowd — already light because of the holiday weekend — had thinned considerably by the end.

Among those in attendance — in a Tyser Tower suite — was Deborah Yow, the longtime Maryland athletic director who left over the summer to assume the same position at N.C. State. Yow, who declined pregame interviews, was wearing an N.C. State pin.

A number of bowl representatives watched the game. There were scouts from the Military Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl and Champs Sports Bowl.

N.C. State had a chance to come back when trailing 31-17. Wilson moved the Wolfpack into the red zone but was sacked by Drew Gloster on fourth and goal from the 8. "My first sack," said Gloster, a senior and converted tight end. "This was my last ride and I had to do something special."

Maryland took over and O'Brien immediately passed 71 yards to Smith, who dunked the ball over the crossbar in celebration. O'Brien leaped and pumped his fist.

The Wolfpack closed to 38-31 on running back James Washington's 3-yard touchdown catch with 1:16 left. But Maryland, thanks to a fourth-and-one conversion by running back D.J. Adams, ran out the clock. The officials replayed the run to make sure the ball had been spotted correctly on Adams' 1-yard run.

N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said "it sure looked like" N.C. State had stopped Adams short "from where we were, and we were right on the chains."

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