NC State is going to a bowl game thanks to what can only be described as an improbable comeback Saturday afternoon against Maryland. Now it's time for a final look at the game with some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
When you rally from a 41-14 third quarter deficit to a 56-41 victory, there is a litany of developments that make it possible. Here are just some of the notable ones:
- The defense forced a three-and-out with 8:42 left in the third quarter, making the Terps punt for the first time since the first quarter and holding the score at 41-14.
- State converted three third downs longer than six yards, including a third and goal from the Maryland 6 with a touchdown pass from redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon to classmate and receiver Tobais Palmer, cutting the lead to 41-21 with 5:57 to go in the third.
- After a three-and-out by Maryland, State faced a fourth and 12 at the Maryland 45 late in the third quarter. Down 20, Tom O'Brien went for it. The Terps rushed just three, and Glennon was able to buy even more time when pressure came, allowing fifth-year senior tight end George Bryan to get open for a 16-yard gain. State would eventually score a touchdown to make it 41-28 with 14:56 remaining in the game.
- Maryland senior running back Davin Meggett loses the ball while being flipped over on redshirt junior linebacker Terrell Manning's tackle, and junior safety Brandan Bishop recovered at the Maryland 26, just 16 seconds after State's previous touchdown. State quickly took advantage when Glennon sneaked in for a touchdown from one yard out with 13:20 left, cutting the lead to 41-35.
- On third and seven at the NCSU 33, Maryland junior right tackle R.J. Dill false started, pushing the Terps five yards back. On the next play, sophomore quarterback C.J. Brown was intercepted at the NC State 8 by redshirt junior safety Earl Wolff, and Wolff returned the pick to the NC State 48 with 10:42 left.
- On third and nine at the Maryland 23, Glennon connected with redshirt freshman running back Tony Creecy for a 20-yard pass to the three, eventually setting up a touchdown run from junior halfback James Washington to give the Pack a 42-41 lead with 7:06 left.
- On Maryland's ensuing drive, Bishop stuffed Brown for a one-yard loss on a designed quarterback draw, and then fifth-year senior defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy clobbered Meggett for a three-yard loss on the next play. The Terps could not convert on third and long and was forced to punt.
- On third and six at the Maryland 43, Glennon overthrew Palmer on a deep pass, but the Terps were flagged for a late hit. Maryland coach Randy Edsall was still upset with the call after the game, but the end result was a first down for the Pack. State would eventually score on a well-designed seven-yard pass from Glennon to Bryan with 2:18 left, putting the Pack up 49-41.
- Redshirt junior corner C.J. Wilson intercepts Brown's pass and returns it 59 yards untouched for a pick six with 27 seconds left on the clock, capping off a remarkable comeback at 56-41.
Three things that worked:
1. Defense for final 25 minutes
The Terps had just four first downs and two turnovers, including a pick six, in its final seven drives. Maryland had 21 plays for 72 yards in that span.
2. Offense for final 24 minutes
State scored a touchdown on its final five drives of the game, piling up 245 total yards in that span on 42 plays and making more crunch plays than can be easily counted.
3. Red zone efficiency
NC State reached the red zone seven times Saturday. They scored a touchdown all seven times. It does not get better than that. What was impressive is that State twice had first and goal at the 10, once had first and goal at the 7 and also faced a second and goal at the 8 after a penalty. Those are tricky down and distances in the red zone.
Three things that did not work:
1. Defense for first 35 minutes
Yes, the offense definitely put the defense in a bad situation too many times, but the reality is that the defense was not bringing its best game either. Maryland had 293 total yards of offense after Meggett's 46-yard touchdown run, which was the second longest scoring run allowed by the Pack this year. The Terps also had 11 first downs at that point.
2. Offense for first 36 minutes
Problem No. 1 was holding onto the football. NC State turned it over four times in the first half alone, including fumbles on the first three drives. But they also struggled to move the football against the most woeful defense in the ACC. The Pack had four three-and-outs in the seven possessions where they did not turn it over before scoring on its final five drives.
3. Starting strong
The rally will live for generations of Wolfpack fans, but there was a reason why State needed a comeback. Given all that was on the line, State could not have started any worse. It has been a problem that plagued NC State all season.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. Maryland's front seven
The Pack could not stop junior defensive tackle Joe Vellano, but that's not a problem exclusive to State. Vellano had eight tackles, including a sack, forced a fumbled and broke up a pass. Otherwise, the Pack held its own here.
NC State's front seven vs. Maryland's OL
State struggled to contain Brown's designed runs and Meggett's running at times, but stiffened up and made several crucial plays. This was not State's best performance on what has been the strongest units on the team the past few weeks, but it got the job done.
NC State's WR vs. Maryland's DB
This was one of the receiving corps better games. Fifth-year senior Jay Smith made six catches for 63 yards and a touchdown in what was probably the best game of his career. Four other wide outs caught passes.
NC State's DB vs. Maryland's WR
Maryland is not known for having a strong receiving corps, but a couple of mistakes by the secondary hurt NC State. Sophomore corner David Amerson took a bad angle on a 59-yard pass play to junior Kevin Dorsey, and Amerson and Wolff seemed to have a miscommunication on a 24-yard Dorsey touchdown catch.
For the second straight week, Glennon stepped up. He threw a bad pick six, but overall he completed 36 of 55 passes for 306 yards and five touchdowns. He also scrambled for a couple of first downs, and he picked the team up in the second half to help spearhead the rally.
Brown hurt State with his legs, rushing 16 times for 77 yards and two scores, but he threw a couple of bad interceptions late when he began to struggle passing. He finished just 12-of-23 passing for 166 yards.
Meggett was the best back on the field, rushing 15 times for 91 yards and a score. State is glad to see Meggett finally graduate and move on. However, State's combination of Creecy and Washington overall were more effective. They combined to rush 34 times for 139 yards and a touchdown, and they caught 12 passes for 69 yards and two scores.
The scuttlebutt before the game was that junior Matt Furstenburg was the second-team All-ACC tight end behind Clemson junior Dwayne Allen. That may still be the case, but on this day Bryan showed why he is the two-time reigning first-team All-ACC tight end. He had one of the best games of his career, catching eight passes for 79 yards and a score. Furstenburg had two catches for 13 yards.
One of the major plays in the game came when Maryland back-up kicker Mike Tart missed an extra point in the second quarter. Tart had to replaced an injured Nick Ferrara, and Ferrara's injury was a blow to the Terps.
State had a solid day on kick returns, and freshmen Niklas Sade and Wil Baumann had one of their better kicking games. Sade did well on his kickoffs, aside from one going out of bounds, and Baumann averaged a respectable 39.2 yards per punt. The Pack also blocked a 40-yard field goal attempt from Ferrara.
State got the edge on special teams this afternoon.