N.C. State football coach Tom O’Brien gave his team three days to celebrate its victory over then-unbeaten Florida State on Oct. 6 and to get away from football.
The mid-point of the season arrived and the players needed a mental and physical break.
Historically, O’Brien’s Wolfpack clubs have done quite well following open dates, having gone 3-2 with the losses by narrow margins at FSU. But this weekend, N.C. State must visit a disliked nemesis in Maryland, a program that has given NCSU and its fans fits perhaps more than any other ACC club in the 2000s.
Add to it that the Terrapins (4-2, 2-0 ACC) are the ACC’s surprise team of the season so far, alongside Duke, and playing with tremendous confidence, the task is considerable for the Pack.
“You’ve got six conference games (remaining), you have to go to Maryland, who is second to Florida State in every defensive category in the conference with the exception of scoring defense,” O’Brien said about the Terps. “They are second in total defense, ninth national, playing really well. The front seven is formidable.”
The Terrapins are 8-4 versus the Wolfpack in the 2000s, which includes last season’s finale when they blew a 41-14 lead in the third quarter and lost 56-41 at Carter-Finley Stadium. The victory put the Wolfpack in a bowl game and may have saved O’Brien’s job.
It was payback of sorts for the N.C. State program and its fans, whose angst for the Terps began in 2001 when Maryland fans tossed oranges onto the Carter-Finley Stadium turf after securing an ACC championship and Orange Bowl berth with a win in Raleigh.
And the manner NCSU has suffered most of its losses to Maryland must have all of Wolfpack Nation biting its nails this week.
2001 – Maryland quarterback Shaun Hill threw an 8-yard touchdown pass with 41 seconds left for a 23-19 victory in Carter-Finley Stadium.
2002 – A 9-1 Wolfpack team ventured up to College Park a week after suffering its first defeat after the best start to a season in school history. The Terps overcame a touchdown deficit entering the final quarter and won 24-21 on a field goal with 34 seconds left.
2003 – In Philip Rivers’ final home game, a late fumble by tailback T.A. McLendon was part of a mistake-filled performance in allowing Maryland to overcome a 24-10 fourth-quarter deficit to win 26-24.
2006 – A turnover-prone N.C. State team bumbled its way to a 26-20 loss in College Park in a game that saw Maryland open up a 23-0 first-half lead.
2007 – With a bowl bid on the line for the winner, Maryland waltzed into Carter-Finley Stadium in O’Brien’s first season and dismantled the Wolfpack 37-0.
2008 – A Terrapins’ field goal with six seconds left was enough to them to escape with a 27-24 decision in College Park.
2010 – With a victory, N.C. State would win the ACC’s Atlantic Division and play for the league’s championship in Charlotte. After opening up a 14-0 lead, State collapsed, and Maryland ran off 38 consecutive points before a late comeback effort by the Pack fell short in the 38-31 Terps victory.
The Wolfpack should enter into this game and the second half of the season with the proper mojo. It’s coming off a win over a big-time opponent and it’s taking on a team that it outscored 42-0 in a 21-minute span the last time they met.
That should fuel the team’s reserve, especially if times get tough Saturday.