Pack Employs Big Ten Football To Bury Terps

With conditions cold, windy and occasionally rainy at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md., the Wolfpack once again relied on its defense to carry the day against the Terrapins.

Like the road win at Blacksburg, Va., over Virginia Tech earlier in the season, the Pack employed Big Ten-style football, using stifling "D" and the field-position game to ensure victory.

The "Red Terrors" limited Maryland to just 91 yards of offense and posted as many sacks as first downs allowed – five. The Wolfpack defense also held the Terps to just two of 17 third-down conversions, stopping Maryland on its final 14 third-down efforts. The Terrapins had seven straight three-and-outs at one point.

State was able to grab a lead and then win field position, starting drives from an average of its own 32-yard line. Maryland averaged its own 26-yard line, but that number was skewed severely by a drive that started on the Wolfpack's 28-yard line following a muffed punt. The Terps started a drive past its own 28-yard line just three times – and two of those came after a Pack missed field goal and the muffed punt, respectively.

With starters T.A. McLendon, Chris Colmer and Jed Paulsen, plus valuable wide receiver Sterling Hicks, sidelined due to injury, the State offense was hamstrung all game long. After establishing a 10-0 halftime lead, the Wolfpack braintrust hedged its bets that the Terps would have no shot at sustaining a long drive against a Pack defense that was swarming from sideline to sideline and harassing Maryland's young, inexperienced quarterbacks.

So after that conclusion was reached at halftime, NC State went out and did what it does best: thoroughly dominate the third quarter. In its last three third quarters, the Wolfpack has outscored its opponents 41-0 and outgained them 444-40 – totals that should be read again for emphasis. The Pack tacked on a field goal in the third quarter to extend its lead to 13 points.

State then turned to punter/kicker John Deraney to nullify Maryland's lone weapon: kick returner Steve Suter. Deraney punted six times for an average of 41.7 yards, pinning one down at the four-yard line and allowing only a total of 10 yards in the punt return game for Suter. The Pack kicking specialist missed three of his five-field goal attempts, connecting from 32 and 49 yards while missing from 32, 51 and 30. On a side note, don't be surprised if the Wolfpack turns to another placekicker to handle short-distance field goals in coming weeks; Deraney has been uneven all season long. He drilled a 53-yarder at Virginia Tech, then misfired from 41 and 27 against Wake Forest. He bounced back to complete a field-goal hat trick from 24, 32 and 26 yards at UNC, but then had the misstep at Maryland. Deraney appears more comfortable from long range, and letting someone else handle shorter placements could take some pressure off him, helping him keep his place among the nation's top 15 punters and return to his near-automatic-touchback form on kickoffs.

Yet again, the Pack forced zero turnovers against the Terps, and now stands –8 in turnover margin on the campaign. But once more, the Wolfpack had multiple opportunities: defensive end Mario Williams had a sack that forced a fumble, but the ball uncannily bounced straight back to Maryland quarterback Joel Statham. Early on, linebacker Patrick Thomas broke up a screen play and appeared to force a fumble that the Wolfpack recovered, but Terps running back Josh Allen was whistled down. Safety Troy Graham had a shot at an interception late in the game, but couldn't reel it in. In the kicking game, defensive end Manny Lawson came within inches of a blocked punt as well.

In step with the Big Ten-style game-planning, the Wolfpack also won the time-of-possession battle. The Pack controlled the ball for 31:29 (compared to Maryland's 28:31), including 8:41-6:19 in the all-important fourth quarter. Interestingly, two of State's three best drives resulted in missed field goals, but did help the Wolfpack control the clock, give its defense a breather and keep the Terps' offense off the field. In the second quarter, the Pack drove 52 yards in 13 plays and kept the pigskin for nearly half the quarter, 6:48.

After a fumbled punt by cornerback Dovonte Edwards was turned into three points for Maryland, State responded by surprising the Terrapins with an air attack. Quarterback Jay Davis hit wideout Lamart Barrett for 17 yards and tailback Darrell Blackman for 13 more, then hooked up with tight end T.J. Williams for 22 yards. The Wolfpack missed another field goal, but still managed to chew up 4:38 of the clock while going 66 yards in 10 plays.

So thoroughly did the Pack defense dominate the Terps that coach Ralph Friedgen threw in the towel by punting the last two times his team had the ball, despite being down by just 10 points. The NC State staff knows that the recipe it employed against Maryland won't necessarily work against Miami, but it was the perfect plan for the situation: on the road, with a dominant defense, in tough conditions, against a struggling offense and with its own injury-plagued offensive unit. The game was placed on the collective shoulders of the "D," and coordinator Reggie Herring's crew responded with flying colors, lifting the Wolfpack to victory and ending the Terrapins' four-game winning streak in the series.

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