COLLEGE PARK ——North Carolina State enters Saturday's game against Maryland at Carter-Finley Stadium with clear incentive. The Wolfpack needs a win on their Senior Day to become eligible for their third bowl appearance in four years.
For Maryland, the motivation is less obvious. The Terps are trying to push past layers of disappointment and not end the year with an eight-game losing streak.
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This season's Terps (2-9, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) would like to end the streak now and avoid having it linger like a hangover into 2012.
"It's not the season we wanted," said redshirt sophomore C.J. Brown, who will make his second straight start at quarterback following the season-ending broken arm sustained by Danny O'Brien. "This is our last opportunity. Nobody wants to go into the offseason losers."
Eliminated from bowl contention weeks ago, Maryland is trying to win partly so its young players can experience another victory.
The Terps haven't beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since opening weekend against Miami. They have not come within single digits of a victory in the past five games.
"They're in a situation that they have nothing to lose," N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said of the Terps. "They can play this game any way they want. It's the last game of the year. This is their bowl game. This is their last chance to go out on a winning note."
Plagued by injuries, Maryland has used a different starting defensive lineup in every game this season.
"I didn't expect to have all the injuries. That's the one thing that you don't ever expect," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "You know, from a positive standpoint, we are right now the least-penalized team in the ACC. We've gotten a lot of young guys experience this year in terms of playing. So you know, that should help us as we continue to move forward."
Edsall, in his first season after being hired from Connecticut, can't help but look ahead.
"I don't like to lose. But I know this: We're going to put a program in place that's going to stand the test of time. And we won't go through these times that we've had to go through this year," Edsall said.
The losing has made routine tasks — even media interviews — around Gossett Football Team House more difficult. The media sessions have become a series of hushed questions and gloomy analysis on what went wrong this season, and what Edsall can do about it.
Edsall plans to meet with players individually early next month. Maryland has seven seniors on the two-deep depth chart, and an uncertain number of younger players are expected to leave. One of them will probably be sophomore defensive end David Mackall, who was suspended for undisclosed reasons after eight games. Asked if Mackall was coming back in 2012, Edsall replied: "I don't think that looks real promising."
N.C. State (6-5, 3-4 ACC) has a different short-term outlook. The Wolfpack upset division-leading Clemson last week, 37-13. Two of the Wolfpack's victories were over Football Championship Subdivision teams, meaning the team needs another victory to qualify for postseason play.
"We're in a situation where we can control our destiny and make this a real rewarding year for a lot of the seniors and this football team going forward," O'Brien said.