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NCSU 20, Maryland 14

(Sidenote: Check out the picture of "Toney Baker" in GoPack's recap. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that this hasn't been corrected.)

I don't get you, Marcus Stone. What do they tell you at halftime, and would it be possible for them to offer you this piece of enlightment prior to the game?

At halftime, I was feeling pretty bad about our chances. I'm sure a lot of people were. Maryland held the ball for over 20 minutes, and it seemed like the majority of that time was spent on State's side of the 50 yard line. The Wolfpack, meanwhile, had managed 40-something total yards. The only reason the Pack managed to score at all in the first half was because Maryland muffed a punt.

The Terps had the lead. They'd thoroughly outplayed the Wolfpack. Marcus Stone looked lost.

And then, much like the Florida State game, NC State turned the tables completely--seemingly out of nowhere.

On the first possession of the second half, Stone completed several passes in a row. The Pack controlled the ball for 12:24 in the 3rd quarter and re-took the lead. The offense went 3-and-out just once in the second half, and in that particular case they already had the ball in field goal range (courtesy of a fumble).

As we rolled into the 4th quarter, the vibe was much different. We'd clearly outplayed Maryland in the 3rd...odd as that was. The offense had a pulse and the defense was stifling.

When Sam Hollenbach threw the ill-advised pass that was returned for a score by Marcus Hudson, I thought that was it for the Terps. Recent history says I should have known better.

The Wolfpack had a several golden opportunities to put the game out of reach. One was an easy INT dropped by Stephen Tulloch near midfield (I can't recall where we were in the second half when that happened).

Another was a fumble by Hollenbach which came on the very next Maryland drive after the pick six. NC State had the ball in the red zone with less than nine minutes left in the game. Trestman kept the playcalling conservative, though, and NC State had to settle for a field goal. Instead of pushing the lead to three possessions (24-7), it was still two (20-7). Later, Maryland had a lengthy 4th down around its own 40. There were about five minutes left and the Terps had one timeout left. So if the Pack held on 4th down, they could pretty much salt away Maryland's chances. Instead, Hollenbach hit JoJo Walker for a miraculous 32-yard pass play.

I started having visions of 2001-2003 after that play. It was one of the few punches to the gut State fans had to deal with all day. Naturally, Maryland scored later on that drive.

Seems like we never make things easy on ourselves. Thankfully, we can smile about it this time.

Quick Notes:

-- Mario Williams. There's nothing I can say that will do his performance justice. Five TFLs--including 4 sacks--and a forced fumble. Mario was in Hollenbach's face all day.

-- Nice effort from Toney Baker: 13 carries, 68 yards (4.3 YPC)

-- I'm not sure if it's coincidence or what, but we've been far less turnover-prone with Marcus Stone under center. NC State won the turnover battle again today. State's one giveaway (a Stone INT) hurt but wasn't crippling because it occurred in Maryland territory. Maryland's turnovers, obviously, were among the most critical plays of the game.

-- I spent most of the game in quiet admiration of Vernon Davis. The dude has got to be the most difficult skill position player to tackle in the nation.

-- This year hasn't been what we wanted it to be, and the team still has some serious problems. But the Pack is on its way to a bowl game. It feels great. StateFans Nation has done some some excellent analysis on bowl scenarios.

-- The basketball team put the cap on this fabulous day. More on that on Sunday.