But, in a game full of odd twists and hard hits, the cruelest hit of all for Maryland may have been freshman kicker Brad Craddock's 33-yard field-goal attempt slamming into the left upright with two seconds left to preserve North Carolina State's 20-18 victory in front of an announced crowd of 40,217 at Byrd Stadium.
Craddock lay on his back after the miss with his hands on his head as N.C. State players leaped up and down to celebrate a finish that Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien called "crazy."
In a game in which two Maryland quarterbacks excelled after starter Perry Hills left the game with a second-quarter knee injury, Craddock missed a chance to become the biggest hero of all.
"I actually thought I hit it pretty well," said Craddock, a native Australian who is still learning American football. "It's never good missing one, you know? It hit like the top of the upright."
Maryland had driven to N.C. State's 14 on a 33-yard pass from Caleb Rowe -- the third Maryland quarterback to appear in the game -- to Nigel King in the final minute.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall had inserted Rowe, who had yet to play for the Terps, because he liked the way the freshman directed the two-minute offense. Rowe was 2-for-2 for 50 yards.
Edsall called the loss "heartbreaking."
Maryland (4-3, 2-1 ACC) missed a chance to move to 3-0 in the conference for just the second time since 1985. It would have been the second-year Maryland coach's first win against a conference team with a winning record.
Earlier, redshirt sophomore Devin Burns had rallied the Terps to an 18-17 lead on three straight scoring drives in the second half after Hills was knocked out of the game.
But, trailing by one point, N.C. State (5-2, 2-1 ACC) took over on its 20-yard line following a punt with 2:17 left.
The Wolfpack -- who were held to 40 yards rushing in the game -- moved to the Maryland 31 on two 14-yard completions by quarterback Mike Glennon (23-of-47, 307 yards).
A pair of runs got N.C. State to the 26, setting up Niklas Sade's 43-yard field goal that made it 20-18 with 32 seconds left.
"They were just spreading us out," said Maryland defensive lineman A.J. Francis, who had five tackles. "It hurts. It's one of those things where you've got to play 60 minutes.'
Hills, the Terps' starting quarterback, was playing behind a patchwork, injury-depleted offensive line. He was often hit hard and was injured in the final moments of the first half.
The Terps were trailing, 10-3, and had moved to the Wolfpack 21 when Hills' pass was intercepted by David Amerson. Hills, who gave chase, remained on the field after the play ended.
Edsall came out to check on him, but Hills was unable to stand without aid, and leaned back and grimaced as he was carted off the field. Maryland said he had a knee injury.
"We will wait to see what the MRI tells about it, but it doesn't look good," Edsall said.
Burns -- who switched from receiver to quarterback after former starting quarterback C.J Brown was lost for the season in August -- passed for 47 yards and rushed for 50.