A week after losing a home game to Wake Forest due mainly to a crucial turnover and allowing big plays, NC State followed the same script against the Terps.
Both teams had trouble moving the ball in the first half, but Maryland was more effective. The Terps had its best success with screens and draws, including two screens to tailback Keon Lattimore that netted 66 yards on back-to-back series, resulting in the 6-0 halftime Maryland advantage.
"The biggest plays in the first half were the screens and draws, and we held them to two field goals," said NC State head coach Chuck Amato. "Then it got to a point where our kids were calling out when they were going to run screens, and we kinda helped on that."
Although the Wolfpack trailed 6-0, Amato said he felt good about his team's chances coming out of halftime with the football.
"When we came out at halftime, we felt so good about the things we could do and would continue to do, and then within two plays," he stated.
Two offensive plays for NC State, and the game changed. From its on 15-yard line, Pack tailback Andre Brown busted through the middle for a 16 yard gain, but when falling to the ground Brown had the ball stripped out by Maryland's Marcus Wimbush. Wimbush recoved the fumble at the 31-yard line, and four plays later quarterback Sam Hollenbach found tailback Josh Allen open on a swing pass that Allen would take in for the touchdown, giving the Terps a 13-0 advantage.
On its ensuing possession, Pack quarterback Daniel Evans forced a pass into double coverage, and Maryland's Erin Henderson intercepted the pass and returned it four yards to State's 24-yard line.
Maryland wasted little time converting on the Wolfpack mishap. Hollenbach rushed 20 yards on a bootleg to the Wolfpack four-yard line, and two plays later Lance Ball would score from the two as Maryland led 20-0 after scoring 14 points in just over four minutes.
As it has done all season, NC State could have folded, but they didn't. The Wolfpack came right back with a 14-play, 80-yard drive keyed by the hard running of Toney Baker. Brown would score from two yards out to cut Maryland's lead to 20-6, but Pack kicker John Deraney had the extra point blocked and the deficit remained 14 points. It was the first missed extra point of Deraney's career.
Maryland came right back to put points on the board after getting more help from the Wolfpack. Josh Wilson returned the kick to the 35, but the Pack's John Kane was flagged for a personal foul, giving Maryland the ball at the fifty-yard line. Seven plays later Dan Ennis kicked his third field goal of the game, a 40-yarder as Maryland led 23-6 with two seconds remaining in the third period.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Wolfpack received a huge special teams play from dynamic wideout Darrell Blackman. Blackman fielded an Adam Podlesh punt at the State 35-yard line, dodged two defenders, and outran two Terps to the endzone for the score. Blackman's touchdown pulled the Pack within 10 at 23-13, and State had even more momentum a play later as J.C. Neal forced a Josh Wilson fumble on the kickoff. The fumble was recovered by Deraney at the NC State 44-yard line, and the Wolfpack had a chance to really put the pressure on the Terps.
Evans converted what looked like a 17-yard pass to Anthony Hill for a first down, but the play was called back as left guard Kalani Heppe was penalized for holding. Two plays later Evans threw his second pick of the game, and the penalty was clearly a drive-killer. The Wolfpack had nine penalties for 80 yards on the day, a stat that stood out to Amato.
"I said it way back earlier in the week that these were two evenly matched teams," he said.
"When you play a game with evenly matched teams, it comes down to protecting the football and penalties."
Ennis would add his fourth field goal following the interception, as Maryland now led 26-13. State would march right back down the field, as Evans completed 3-of-5 passes for 65 yards to put the Pack at the one-yard line where Baker would rumble in to cut the lead to 26-20 with 58 seconds remaining.
The Wolfpack's onside attempt failed and the Pack ran out of time as Maryland would run the clock out to secure the victory. The win improved Maryland to 5-2 on the season and 2-1 in conference play while the Pack fell to 3-4 and 2-2 in ACC play.
The Wolfpack had some success moving the football, totaling 299 yards of total offense. Baker rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and Brown added 62 yards and a score on 10 rushes. Evans completed 15-of-26 passes for 145 yards, but he did have those two costly turnovers.
Next up for NC State is a huge conference game against Virginia. The Cavaliers have struggled this season, but are coming off a 23-0 win over North Carolina and will be hosting the Wolfpack.
"This isn't over yet," said Amato. "This isn't over yet, and those kids want to go practice right now."