by Mike Potter
CARTER-FINLEY STADIUM/RALEIGH N.C. State comes into its final game of the regular season with a pretty clear mission.
That’s what State will have to do today against recent nemesis Maryland, who kept the Wolfpack out of the ACC title game with a comeback victory in College Park last year and dumped a losing season on State in 2007, Tom O’Brien’s first-year as head coach.
State can’t have a losing season, but because of a weak schedule needs a victory to qualify for a bowl. The 6-5 Wolfpack beat two teams that count as FCS opponents — obviously Liberty, but also a South Alabama team that will be a full FBS member next season after its transition is over — and needs to get a seventh win to go to a bowl game.
All it has to do is beat the worst team in the ACC, a 2-9 Maryland club that has lost seven straight games and the last six of those by at least 11 points.
It turns out to be yet another Carter-Finley November 2011 Classic, as the Wolfpack comes from a ridiculous 41-14 deficit to score the game’s final 42 points and win 56-41.
That means the Pack is going bowling — probably to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 27 - although the Chick-Fil-A (Dec. 31, Atlanta) and Independence (Dec. 26, Shreveport) are also in the house.
Things do not get off to a good start.
Maryland builds a 34-14 halftime lead, with touchdowns on a 66-yard fumble return from Dexter McDougle and a 32-yard interception from A.J. Hendy among the keys. It then goes to 41-14 on Devin Meggett’s 46-yard run with 10:50 left in the third before the miracle began.
State scores on its next two drives on a six-yard pass from Mike Glennon to Tobais Palmer and an 11-yard Glennon pass to Tony Creecy on the first play of the fourth quarter, the latter following a 16-yard completion from Glennon to George Bryan on fourth and 12 at the Terps’ 45.
Glennon’s one-yard plunge with 13:28 left five plays after Terrell Manning recovers a Meggett fumble at the Maryland 26 cuts it to 41-35. And State goes ahead 42-41 on a one-yard James Washington run followed by Niklas Sade’s kick at 7:08.
State’s clinching drive ends in Glennon’s seven-yard TD pass to Bryan with 2:18 to play, and C.J. Wilson adds the exclamation point on a 59-yard interception return with 27 seconds remaining.
Glennon completes 36 of 55 passes for 306 yards and five TDs and also runs for another. He has career highs for completions, attempts and tied school records for both TD passes and TD responsibility on the day.
Redshirt freshman Creecy has his best day, rushing for 49 yards and catching eight passes for 52 yards and two TDs.
Bryan catches eight passes for 79 yards and the TD. Washington finishes with 90 rushing yards and four catches for 17. Jay Smith catches six passes for 63 yards and a TD.
C.J. Brown leads the Terps with 166 yards and a TD through the air and 77 yards and two TDs on the ground.
They said it …
O’Brien: “Some of our seniors weren’t going to come off the field without a victory. We fumbled on our first three possessions and put ourselves in a hole. But if you have character, you’re able to withstand anything. Both of those teams of ours were here today. The bad team came and the first half was over, so I told them we needed the good guys to go back out there and play the second half.”
Maryland coach Randy Edsall: “This was really tough. “We needed to make the plays we didn’t make. I don’t know what it was. … We couldn’t make the plays late in the game. We couldn’t stop them on third or fourth downs.”
Glennon: “It’s a great win. It was definitely the biggest comeback I’ve ever been a part of. We knew we could come back and that’s exactly what we did.”
Bryan: “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever been a part of. It’s unreal we came from that many points down. These last three games here were the most satisfying of my career. All three.”
What does it all mean?
State is going bowling.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Glennon’s 14-yard pass to Bryan on fourth and 12.
State: Won 2.
Maryland: Lost 8.
State in December bowl game
Maryland in 2012 season opener