N.C. State Becomes Bowl Eligible With Maryland Win
Posted November 27, 2005 10:41 a.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — Chuck Amato felt happy, proud and vindicated, all at once. His North Carolina State Wolfpack had their sixth victory of the season to qualify for the postseason.
"Five weeks ago, we were written off by people," he said. "This group of guys never quit, though. It is indescribable."
Toney Baker had the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard leap over the pile, Marcus Hudson returned one of his two interceptions 28 yards for a clinching score and N.C. State beat Maryland 20-14 Saturday to become bowl eligible.
Mario Williams tied his own school record with four sacks for the Wolfpack (6-5, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), who allowed a total of minus-6 yards in the third quarter. Despite losing four of their first six games, they likely will return to a bowl for the fifth time in six seasons under Amato after missing out in 2004.
"They all took their coaching, the defense stepped up and we stopped making a lot of mistakes on offense and in the kicking game," Amato said. "This was a great win and we were definitely cranked up."
No such luck for the Terrapins (5-6, 3-5). They are staying home for the second year in a row, done in by repeated turnovers and other mistakes down the stretch. A week ago, quarterback Sam Hollenbach was responsible for three turnovers-- two were turned into TDs by Boston College -- and he continued to give away the ball against N.C. State.
With Maryland trailing 10-7 in the fourth quarter, Hollenbach tried to connect with Danny Melendez, but Williams forced him to throw early. Hudson stepped in front of Melendez and ripped the ball out of his hands, then sprinted up the sideline with his first interception of the season.
"I've known Marcus since he was in eighth or ninth grade, because I was recruiting his brother," Amato said. "Marcus is a great player, and we are lucky to have him at N.C. State."
That made it 17-7, and on the next possession, Williams sacked Hollenbach and forced a fumble, with defensive tackle DeMario Pressley recovering for the Wolfpack. When the Terps held, John Deraney came on for a 29-yard field goal to increase the margin to 20-7.
"Until we learn not to beat ourselves, we're not going to be a very good team," Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said. "We're a young team. Hopefully, we'll learn from that."
Hollenbach briefly bounced back. He led Maryland on a 75-yard drive to pull within 20-14, finishing it off with a scoring toss to tight end Vernon Davis that covered 15 yards. But N.C. State held on for its fourth win in the final five games when Hudson intercepted another one of Hollenbach's passes with 34 seconds left.
Now Hudson and his teammates can only hope for one more game.
"We're fighters. We're winners," Hudson said. "We came back from 2-4."
The Terrapins completed their schedule losing four of the final five. They played this one without starting wide receiver Derrick Fenner, who didn't make the trip for unspecified reasons.
"I'm not going to get into that," Friedgen said.
Yet even with Fenner, Maryland would have had a hard time solving the Wolfpack's defense, which gave up 30 yards rushing and finished with seven sacks.
Hollenbach was 20-for-35 for 235 yards, along with his three turnovers.
"We definitely have to get the thing squared away at quarterback," Friedgen said. "Something is going to change there. You can't have that."
Maryland completely controlled the first half, yet led only 7-3 after Dan Ennis hooked two field goals wide left. And the only points for N.C. State -- a 38-yard field goal by Deraney -- came after Jo Jo Walker bobbled a punt into the hands of Hudson.
The Wolfpack needed to drive 13 yards to take a 3-0 lead, and it was a good thing, too. They struggled offensively in the opening half and finished with only 39 yards on 21 plays.
"I don't know what happened," Davis said. "I was kind of lost out there. I don't know what went wrong. I thought we had this game."