Sure, it helped that Maryland lost its starting quarterback Chris Turner late in the second quarter. But regardless of how it happened, the Pack defense made the stops it needed to make as the Wolfpack snapped a four-game skid with a 38-31 win on Saturday afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The win was far from easy for the Pack, however. Russell Wilson threw three picks, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and special teams muffed a punt and allowed a kick return touchdown to keep Maryland close throughout. But the Pack defense was the difference, turning in a stellar second-half performance where it allowed just nine yards of offense in the third quarter and held the Terrapins to a field goal in the final quarter.
Wilson, despite the interceptions, put together another stellar performance with 332 yards passing and four total touchdowns for the Pack (4-5, 1-4 ACC). Jarvis Williams led the receiving core with seven catches for 107 yards while Toney Baker rushed for 71 yards to help down the Terps (2-7, 1-4).
The Pack struck first at the start of the game, but it was the defense that came up with a big play this time. Willie Young snagged a pass from Turner out of the air, tipping it to himself for an interception that gave his offense the ball at the Maryland 21-yard line. Two plays later, Wilson found George Bryan over the middle to get the Pack off to a 7-0 lead.
But the defense couldn't come up with a stop two series in a row, as the Terps marched down the field on its next possession with precision to retake the lead. Turner completed 6-of-7 passes on the drive before a one-yard run tied the score at a touchdown. State responded quickly however, taking just four plays to make it 14-7. Wilson this time found Donald Bowens streaking down the sideline for a 35-yard touchdown to cap a 73-yard drive.
The Terrapins tied the score again thanks to a questionable call by Tom O'Brien in the first quarter. The Pack punted to the Maryland 3-yard line but got called for running into the kicker. O'Brien elected to take the penalty and attempt to convert fourth and six from Maryland 33-yard line. But the play ended in disaster, as Wilson threw an interception to Alex Wujciak who returned the ball 70 yards for a touchdown to tie the score. The Pack faced fourth and 10 from almost the same field position on its next drive, this time electing to try a field goal as Josh Czajkowski nailed a career-long 48-yard try to make it 17-14 in favor of the Pack.
The teams traded touchdown for a second time in the half to make it 24-21, with Maryland striking first. The Terrapins marched 62 yards, with Turner making a big play on third-and-four to from the 21-yard line when he avoided the rush and picked up 20 yards through the air. The quarterback ran it in himself on the next play to give the Terps the lead.
The Pack responded with a touchdown drive, as Wilson hit Darrell Davis on for an 18-yard touchdown on a long third down play to retake the lead. A blocked field goal attempt by Audie Augustin late in the half helped the Pack maintain the lead going into the locker room. The Pack also knocked out Turner during the ladder stages of the half, and the Terrapins were forced to play without their starting quarterback for the remainder of the day.
The Pack extended its lead to 31-21 on its first drive of the second half, marching 80 yards in just under five minutes to take its biggest lead of the day. Wilson connected with Williams on a pair of big passing plays, and the sophomore quarterback found the endzone with his legs on second down from two yards out. The lead lasted all of 10 seconds however, when Torrey Smith took the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown to make the score 31-28.
After a string of four possessions where neither team put points on the board, the Pack got back on the board to extend its lead to 38-28. The big play came through the air, where Wilson connected on a 38-yard pass to Owen Spencer, who went up and around a Maryland defender to catch the ball, to put the Pack on the doorstep at the 3-yard line. Jamelle Eugene took it in from one yard a few plays later. The Terrapins would tack on a field goal on its ensuing drive to pull back within a touchdown, but their final drive would come up short to give the Pack the win.