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November 30, 2013
Long season for Pack ends with loss, 41-21
Maryland junior quarterback C.J. Brown hurt NC State's defense with both his legs and his arm Saturday in leading the Terrapins to a 41-21 victory at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Brown rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, and passed for 259 yards and two scores to help Maryland improve to 7-5 overall and win its last ACC game.
The Terrapins jumped out to a dominating 34-7 lead with 3:23 left in the second quarter, eliminating any possibility of the Wolfpack to "what if" during the offseason. First-year coach Dave Doeren and NCSU finished the season 3-9 and 0-8 in the ACC, the first winless season in the league since 1959.
"I'm disappointed that we couldn't send our senior players (20 total) out with a win," Doeren said. "It's been a tough long season. As the head coach here, it's my job to get this football team to play better than they did. That's something I'll be spending every day in the offseason to try and make right. It starts with me and my staff."
Doeren said following the game that brighter days are ahead, and he'll be meeting with returning players and thanking the seniors Sunday. The Wolfpack coaches will be hitting the road hard to finish their 2014 recruiting class, which currently includes 24 verbal commits and Rivals.com ranks the haul No. 28 in the country.
Not having an assortment of bowl practices for the younger players is one of the shortcomings of finishing 3-9.
"I'll be hitting the road for two weeks until the dead period," Doeren said. "I knew when I got here, there would be challenges. We faced many of them throughout the season."
NCSU finished the season on an eight-game losing streak, but optimism and team chemistry never seemed to waiver.
"Every week we went to the field, I felt like we had a good game plan, and we put everything into it from a staff standpoint," Doeren said. "I know that we worked the way we needed to work to prepare our guys. Can you better? Obviously, look at the results.
"There are a lot of things that are there on film. Maybe it's a missed tackle or a guy open that we don't connect with, or a drop or protection issue."
New leaders will have to emerge, but some of the players are poised to be three-year starters and know what it's like to win from the past.
"I have a positive outlook on this whole program," said NCSU junior defensive tackle T.Y. McGill, who had a memorable strip and fumble recovery in one swoop against the Terrapins. "We grew more as a team this year inside the facility than playing. We came together more as a family. We had some setbacks and things happen that we wish wouldn't happen during the season."
NC State redshirt sophomore cornerback Juston Burris said finishing games strong is the main objective going into the offseason.
"A lot of games, we were in it in the fourth quarter, and we could have turned our season around just like that if we had won the fourth quarter," said Burris, who is one of three starters back in the secondary. "The season didn't go the way we wanted it too, but we could see we could turn it around. It could have gone the opposite way if we had won in the fourth quarter."
NC State started the game strong and took an early 7-0 lead when fifth-year senior quarterback Brandon Mitchell tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior fullback Tyler Purvis with 10:54 left in the first quarter.
The Terrapins responded with four touchdowns and two Brad Craddock field goals to surge to their 34-7 lead. Brown tossed a 53-yard jump ball touchdown pass to Raleigh native Nigel King, a sophomore wide receiver, and then the dual threat quarterback ran for three touchdowns — 49 yards, two and three. He capped his game with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Albert Reid in the third quarter to extend the lead to 41-14.
"We let their quarterback run the football way too effectively," Doeren said. "We got behind. Our special teams hurt us field position-wise (one poor punt snap and one shanked punt). That really put our defense in some bad positions from a field position standpoint early in the game."
Maryland had the same 41-14 lead in 2011, when NCSU quarterback Mike Glennon and an opportunistic defense forged their "Rally For The Ages" to win 56-41. NC State wasn't going to have that kind of comeback Saturday, but kept trying until the end. Going 6 of 17 on third-down conversions and 2 of 6 on fourth downs was part of the game-long offensive inconsistency.
NC State found its bearings in the second half but it proved to be too late. Fifth-year senior wide receiver Rashard Smith accumulated 266 all-purpose yards, and caught a five-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to cut the score to 34-14.
Mitchell, who rushed 30 times for 72 yards, added a three-yard touchdown run for the final score of the game to make it 41-21 with 11:58 left in the third quarter. The Arkansas graduate transfer finished with 200 passing yards and a combined three touchdowns between passing and rushing.
Mitchell battled through an assortment of injuries this season, but believes in Doeren and the future of the Wolfpack program. He half-joked that he'll refer to his college experience as being "A Whole Pack of Hogs."
"I spent four years there, but I was probably closer to the guys here," Mitchell said. "There was a business atmosphere. Here, they are a group of my brothers even though I didn't get recruited by them. From day one since I got here June 28 until now, they have treated me like their own.
"I just wanted an opportunity to play with a bunch of guys who loved the game and had a chance to win."
Doeren will assess each of the players strengths and weaknesses in the coming weeks and has high expectations for what strength and conditioning coach Jason Veltkamp can accomplish. Some NCSU players have had three different strength and conditioning coaches.
"We have two weeks here before finals and then Christmas break," Doeren said. "We'll be starting it back up in January."
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