NC State is tired of losing to Maryland. Not just losing to them, but watching them succeed. Somehow, Ralph Friedgen took a perennially mediocre football program and immediately turned them into an ACC power. NC State has been right on their heels, but ever since Friedgen arrived in 2001, the Terps have outplayed the Pack - both for the season and in timely end- of-season matchups between the two.
Chuck Amato came to Raleigh in 2000, and was the first in a barrage of new coaching hires across the league. In 2001, Ralph Friedgen joined the ACC head coach fraternity along with Jim Grobe of Wake Forest, Al Groh of UVa, and John Bunting of UNC. Chan Gailey was hired by Georgia Tech the following year. None has had more success than Friedgen. Amato has been close, and last year even stole a higher profile bowl bid from the Terps, but Friedgen has been the one to not only challenge Florida State for the mantle of ACC champion, but the first to outright win it since Florida State joined the league.
That's all well and good for Maryland, but Friedgen needs to have his bubble burst. As messy as that could be, it's necessary. "The fridge" has been gobbling up victories, and those have included a couple of painful servings of NC State.
Not this time. NC State might be exhausted after a double-overtime loss to the Seminoles down in Tallahassee last week, but the Pack knows this is a matchup that plays in its favor. NC State will host the Terps in Raleigh in what will be the final home game for Philip Rivers, who has seemingly done everything in his four years at NC State. Except, of course, beat Maryland. But no matter, when a streak like this endures, you can either place your bets that it will continue, or figure that the streak is due to break.
At the top of the NC State players' memories has to be the close losses to the Terps to close out the past two seasons. Let's go back to 2001, Amato's second year. NC State had just rattled off three ACC victories to pull to 4-3 in the ACC, it's last victory a shocking upset of Florida State in Tallahassee, the first since its arrival in the league. NC State was jockeying for third place with UNC, Clemson and Georgia Tech, with a decent bowl bid in the balance and only 8-1, ninth-ranked Maryland in the way, who, thanks to NC State's upset of the 'Noles, would be playing for their first share of the ACC title. With 2 1/2 minutes left, Rivers only needed to move the ball far enough to run out the clock, but the Terps stopped him, and with 41 seconds left Shaun Hill tossed a strike in the end zone to Guilian Gary for a 23-17 win in Raleigh, and a 4-4 ACC finish for the Pack.
Last year, NC State was the team playing for a share of the ACC title, and went to College Park with the firm intent of avenging the previous year's nailbiting loss. At 4-1 in the ACC and ranked 13th in the nation, NC State was coming off it's first loss of the seaons, to Georgia Tech, but still had a great shot of wrapping up an ACC title. The Terps felt otherwise, and nailed a field goal with 34 seconds left to grab the lead for good and again dampen State's season. Rivers almost pulled the Pack into field goal range before the game ended, but after a 41-yard completion to Sterling Hicks, Rivers' next pass was intercepted to end the game.
NC State, Clemson and Georgia Tech all hope to steal a 2nd-place finish from Maryland, and a win tomorrow could be the key to locking up another Gator Bowl bid for the Pack. Rivers isn't likely to let the Terps get the better of him again. His performance this season has exceeded even his high standards, and as long as he's in the fold, NC State is capable of anything.