COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Maryland still feels the sting of being victimized by the second-biggest comeback in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
Much good has happened for the Terrapins in the 11 months since they blew a 27-point lead in a 56-41 loss to North Carolina State. Maryland has already doubled its win total of 2011, is the lone unbeaten team in ACC play and needs only two victories to become bowl eligible.
The memory of that November afternoon in North Carolina, however, remains fresh. Maryland led 41-14 in the third quarter before the Wolfpack peeled off 42 straight points, including 35 in the fourth quarter.
“The biggest thing I remember is walking off the field,” Terrapins linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield said. “That being my hometown, I was kind of lost. I know that stadium, I’ve been there plenty of times. I looked around in disbelief. It was like, `Are you serious?’ I was very emotional after the game. I think everybody remembers that. And we owe them.”
Payback time, so to speak, comes Saturday when the Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1) comes to Maryland (4-2, 2-0).
“It’s not a revenge game,” Terps defensive end A.J. Francis said. “It’s more being (ticked) off that it happened in general. It’s nothing against them. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. It’s more a matter of we shouldn’t have lost that game last year. We were a better team than our record, a better team than that game showed. Give them credit. They went out and won the game and we lost it. This year, we’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The defeat put an exclamation point on a dreadful 2-10 season, Maryland’s first under coach Randy Edsall. The Terrapins have rebounded to play surprisingly well this season and have already avenged three losses from a year ago (Temple, Wake Forest and Virginia). They can make it four — and stay unbeaten in the ACC — with a win over NC State.
“The deeper you get in ACC play, the tougher the games get,” Hartsfield said. “The stakes are higher. Each game is going to mean more and more if we want to get to the Orange Bowl.”
The Wolfpack are coming off a bye that enabled them an extra week to get some rest and savor their 17-16 upset of Florida State on Oct. 6.
“This is going to tell us where we want to go — whether we want to just stay complacent with the Florida State win or whether we want to go farther in the season,” NC State wide receiver Quintin Payton said.
With its win over Maryland last November, NC State became bowl eligible. That game, however, probably will have little bearing on this one for the Wolfpack.
“We should forget about it,” NC State coach Tom O’Brien said. “You never want to put yourself in that position. Looking back, I think we tried too hard early and then certainly had never been in a situation where you had to score 35 fourth-quarter points to win a football game.
“But you know, it’s a whole different Maryland team — and their psyche. At that point, they were 2-9. Now they’re 4-2 and have won two in a row and they’ve won two ACC games, one of them on the road, which is huge for them. So it’s going to be a whole different attitude going up there. And certainly going to College Park, it’s been a tough place for us to play.”
Maryland has won three straight at home against the Wolfpack — by a total of 16 points.
The difference in this year’s team under Edsall has been the addition of several key freshmen, including quarterback Perry Hills and wide receiver/kick returner Stefon Diggs. And this team knows how to finish — after being outscored 117-92 in the fourth quarter last year, Maryland has a 51-31 advantage over the final 15 minutes this season.
“One thing that is really interesting and what stood out to me is when you look at Perry Hills in the fourth quarter, he’s 24 of 35 for 390 yards and two touchdowns,” Edsall said. “So when the game is on the line he is performing at his best.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)