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    October Urgency for Pack and Terps
    Art Norman
    Art Norman

    Game 7: NC State Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1) at Maryland Terrapins (4-2, 2-0)
    October 20, 2012 • 3:30 p.m. • ESPNU
    College Park, Md. • Byrd Stadium (54,000)

    TV: ESPNU | Radio: Wolfpack Sports Network | Gametracker
    Game Notes | #GoPack Twitter Talk | NC State Twitter | Ask the Analyst

    Football games between Maryland and NC State always seem to be meaningful. Perhaps that's because the majority of those games over the last two decades have been played at the end of the season in November. But in what will be a rare October meeting on Saturday, the Terrapins (4-2, 2-0) and Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1) will clash in a contest that will have significant implications in the race for the ACC's Atlantic Division title.

    Kickoff time from Byrd Stadium in College Park is set for 3:30 p.m. Radio coverage on the Wolfpack Sports Network begins at 1:30 p.m.

    At 2-0 in the ACC, the youthful Terrapins are the last remaining unbeaten team in league play. Coming off its huge upset of Atlantic Division foe Florida State, NC State has a chance to take down a second straight division opponent in as many games.

    In other words, the winner of Saturday's tilt will continue to control its own destiny, while the loser will need help to stay in the conference championship sweepstakes.

    Just call it a playoff game in the middle of October.

    NC State's plight thus far illustrates the value of winning games within the division. Although the Wolfpack fumbled away its conference opener at Miami, it put itself right back into contention by knocking off Florida State, a team that many thought would go unbeaten in the ACC following an earlier triumph over Clemson.

    "We're right back on track now, so however it worked out, it worked out fine," said Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien. "In the scheme of things, it was much better to beat Florida State than Miami. If they would have said you're going be 1-1 in those games, we picked the right one to win for us being able to continue to Charlotte. Now we have to continue to win."

    `Must win' games against Maryland have become a familiar refrain for NC State. In its last visit to College Park on the final day of the regular season two years ago, the Wolfpack needed a win to capture the division title and advance to the conference championship game.

    The Terps spoiled the party, winning 38-31 on bitterly cold day in November.

    "It was cold," said State defensive end, chuckling as he recalled the frigid, windy weather conditions. "It wasn't a good trip. They spoiled our chance to go to the ACC championship two years ago, so we're going to keep that in mind and also try to use what happened two years ago to help us become the first NC State team to win at Maryland in a while."

    The Wolfpack hasn't posted a win at Byrd since 2004 and has dropped five of its last six games there.
    "Maryland plays us great every year," State wide receiver Quintin Payton said. "I try not to look at the past as much as what is ahead of us. I feel like if we stay focused and keep playing the way we've been playing, then we'll handle business against Maryland."

    Needing a win to qualify for a bowl last November in Raleigh, Payton in the Pack didn't seem interested in `handling their business' for two-plus quarters before authoring the greatest comeback in school history. Down 42-14 midway through the fourth quarter, State stunned the Terps by scoring 42 unanswered points over the last 20 minutes to win it 56-14.

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    "The Maryland game last year was nuts with everything that happened," Slay said. "The crowd was booing us at halftime and the stadium was getting half empty. There was no panic on the sideline. They were up, but we knew weren't out of the game."

    Because of a youth movement under second-year coach Randy Edsall, there will be several Terrapins on the field on Saturday who did not take part in those games against NC State the last two years. After losing athletic quarterback C.J. Brown to a knee injury in the preseason, Edsall was forced to turn to true freshman Perry Hills, who has shown steady game-by-game improvement over the first half of the season. Hills ranks 10th in the ACC, passing for a modest average of just 196 yards per game, but he does have more touchdown passes (8) than interceptions (6).

    Most impressively, he's been at his best in the fourth quarter of games, completing 24-of-35 passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns. Maryland's biggest offensive threat is also a true freshman. A two-time ACC Rookie of the Week and the reigning specialist of the week, receiver-return man Stefon Diggs leads the conference in all-purpose yards with an average of 168 per game. The dynamic Diggs opened last week's game at Virginia with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

    "He's had the same impact of Sammy Watkins (Clemson) last year as far as a freshman coming into the conference," said NC State head coach Tom O'Brien. "He does a good job in the punt and kick return game and the screen game."

    No team in the ACC has played more true freshmen than Maryland. Twelve true freshmen played in the season opener against William & Mary, while 14 freshmen appear on the current depth chart.

    "I'm happy with the way they're progressing," Edsall said. "They're nowhere near where they're going to be. What's neat is to see the progress they make on a weekly basis. With freshmen, there are always those moments where you scratch your head and ask yourself `how did that happen?' after they do some of the things they do. The thing that's most impressive about all these young guys is there competitive nature and the leadership that I've seen. You really don't see them get rattled."

    Offensively challenged at times, especially in the running game (last in ACC with average of 71 yards per game), Maryland relies heavily on a stout defense that ranks No. 2 to Florida State in most of the ACC's major defensive statistics. Anchored by relentless defensive end Joe Villano and athletic linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, the Terps rank 9th nationally in rushing defense (95 ypg) and total defense (278).

    "They're playing really well," O'Brien said. "Hartsfield leads them in tackles and Vellano, who we didn't block once last year, leads them in tackles for loss. The front seven is formidable."

    Getting Maryland blocked up front will also be a formidable challenge for an offensive line that has been without continuity because of injuries to three starters in the first six games. Fortunately, tackles Rob Crisp (lower back) and Andrew Wallace (foot) are listed as probable for Saturday's game after nursing injuries for several weeks.

    In last year's stunning comeback, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon was spectacular, throwing five touchdowns passes and running for another as the Wolfpack eventually wore Maryland's defense down in the second half.

    "He can make all the throws," Edsall said. "They're going to stretch you vertically and horizontally. He's just a well-rounded player who's got tremendous experience. When you look at him from the perspective of being a future pro prospect, he's probably the best guy that we've faced all season."

    Glennon's 218 yards passing in the second half against Florida State two weeks ago were the most against the Seminoles defense in more than two years.

    The series between NC State and Maryland is tight, with each team claiming 32 victories. There have also been four ties.

    Thirteen of the last 15 games have been played in November, yet Saturday's October meeting, the 69th all-time, appears to be no less urgent for either team.

    The Wolfpack Sports Network will begin its broadcast day on Saturday with the `Inside Wolfpack Sports TV Show,' which will preview the State-Maryland game on Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. The show can be seen on MASN, Fox Sports South and online at

    Radio coverage will open with the `Mathews Motors Countdown to Kickoff' at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Fans can forward questions to our game announcers before, during and after the game via Twitter @packradio. Former Wolfpack All-American and radio analyst Johnny Evans will also field questions from fans on the pregame show. To send Johnny and the crew a question, go here.



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