NOTES: Terps Up Next

NC State will end the season on Saturday against Maryland in Carter-Finley Stadium. Here are some pregame notes on the Wolfpack.

The Wolfpack stands one game up on Maryland in the overall series record between the two schools, which dates back over 100 years. The teams first met on Oct. 30, 1909 and have played every year since 1956.

The Pack enters the final meeting of the two schools as ACC opponents with a one-game edge in the overall series, 33-32-4. State has won the last two matchups with Maryland and three of the last four.

In the 21st century, the games between NC State and Maryland have been close ones. Of the last 13 contests between the two teams, five of which the Wolfpack has won, 11 have been decided by 10 points or fewer. Five of those 13 games have been decided by four or less points and 10 by less than 10 points.

Last season, the Pack went ahead on a Niklas Sade field goal with 32 seconds left in the game, and then watched a Maryland FG attempt hit the upright to hold on to a 20-18 victory. In 2011, State won by 15 points, but had to score 42 unanswered points in the second half to gain the victory in the largest comeback in school history.

The Wolfpack entered the season with just 11 returning starters - one of the lowest totals in the nation. Since then, State has been bitten hard by the injury bug, with a whopping total of 41 games already missed by players who were listed as starters coming into the season.

Of those games missed, 32 have come on the offensive side of the ball. In addition, another 12 games have been missed by key skill players on offense. The quarterback and wide receiver positions have been hit especially hard, as QBs have missed seven total games and wide receivers have missed 15.

One of the most frustrating, yet promising facts about the Wolfpack's ACC losses in 2013 is that with the exception of one game (vs. No. 2 Florida State), the score was close late in the game.

In the Pack's other ACC contests, the average difference in the score after the third quarter has been just 7.1 points. In only one game (vs. then No. 3 Clemson) did the Pack trail by more than a touchdown and that was only by 13 points following the third quarter.

The scores have been even closer than that at other points in the second half.

One of the bright spots for the offense in recent games has been the play of sophomore tailback Shadrach Thornton.

Thornton, who missed the first game of the season due to a suspension and did not break into the starting lineup until the fourth game of 2013, rushed for a career-high 173 yards at Florida State, including a career-long 72-yard touchdown scamper. He was also the Pack's leading receiver in the game with five catches.

That was the most rushing yards for a Pack player since 2006 and the 18th-best mark all-time.

Thornton now averages 76.4 rushing yards per game against ACC opponents this season, the fourth-best mark in the league.

He now boasts 1,300 career rushing yards after only 20 games.

The Pack's passing attack has performed at a season-high mark in the last two games. Against Boston College and East Carolina, NC State has completed 54- of-84 (64.3%) passes for an average of 318.5 per game, eclipsing 300 yards each time out.

Pete Thomas started the BC game while Brandon Mitchell got the nod versus East Carolina. Mitchell set career highs with 312 yards and four TD strikes versus the Pirates.

For the first time all season, the Pack has not thrown an interception in those two contests. Entering the Boston College game, the Pack had thrown 12 interceptions and four TD passes. But against BC and ECU, NC State has seven touchdown passes and no interceptions.

Freshman wide receiver Jumichael Ramos has 23 catches this season - a mark that ranks third-highest on the team. He is averaging 14.4 yard per reception - a mark that trails only senior Quintin Payton for Wolfpack players with more than 10 catches in 2013.

However the category in which Ramos leads the team by leaps and bounds is in making big plays when the Wolfpack needs it most. Nine of his 23 catches this season have been to convert a third or fourth down. Only one time when Ramos was the target on a third or fourth down play did the rookie fail to convert and that was a 3rd and 15 against Syracuse when he only gained 11 yards.

Ramos caught his first touchdown pass at Boston College on Nov. 16 - a 52 yarder. Then last week against ECU, he caught two TD strikes.

Over the last two season, senior wide receiver Rashard Smith has proven to be a dangerous threat on punt returns and is putting up some of the best numbers in school history in that category.

Smith has three punt returns for long touchdowns in his career, two 73-yarders (against The Citadel in 2012 and at Duke last Saturday) and a 67-yarder earlier this season against Central Michigan. Those 73-yarders tie as the eighth-longest punt returns in school history.

Smith ranks third in the ACC with 15.3 yards per punt return, a mark that ranks 10th in the NCAA. He is also only one of nine players nationally that has returned two or more punts for a touchdown this season.

For his career, Smith has compiled 571 punt return yards, a figure that ranks sixth in the NC State record books.

As a team this season, the Pack ranks third in the ACC in punt return average (13.9).

Through 11 games this season, 44.2 percent of the total games started on offense and defense (107 of 242) have come from players who had never started a game prior to 2013.

The Wolfpack has had 21 different players earn their first career start in an NC State uniform this season, with those 21 players combining for 107 starts.

The offensive line has seen the highest amount of new starters, as four players earned their first NC State starts this year, and those four have combined for 32 starts this season. In the defensive secondary, three first-time starters have combined for 17 starts. Among linebackers, three players who had never started prior to this season have combined for 16 starts.

Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren has talked about building a wall around the state of North Carolina and keeping the instate players at home. He's taken that a step further by fielding a team that boasts many local players seeing action.

On the current roster, 21 players are from Raleigh or Wake County. Of those 21 players, eight are listed on the two-deep and five have started games this season.

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