COLLEGE PARK - Maryland had much to overcome yesterday. There was the rain and whipping wind and a soggy, less-than-imposing home crowd. There was the first-quarter injury to linebacker Dave Philistin, its second-leading tackler, who did not return to the game.
Most important, the Terps had to contend with a mobile, tricky quarterback in North Carolina State's Russell Wilson and a Wolfpack team desperate for a win after two consecutive fourth-quarter losses.
N.C. State stayed with Maryland until six seconds remained, when Obi Egekeze kicked a 20-yard field goal in a steady rain to push the Terps to a 27-24 victory. Egekeze had missed a 39-yard try on the previous possession, ending his string of nine field goals in a row. His winning kick capped an 89-yard drive on which Maryland gobbled up 4:44 on the clock.
"If you're going to win championships, you've got to win games like this - it just comes with it," said a soaked, hoarse Ralph Friedgen, the Maryland coach who seemed more relieved than elated afterward. He said he told Egekeze before the kick: "It's an extra point, Obi. You've kicked 150 of these in a row."
Egekeze, who was nearly replaced after missing his first five attempts of the season and battling a muscle pull, beamed and raised his index finger into the air after the kick, and quarterback Chris Turner rushed to embrace the kicker.
With the win, Maryland (6-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) became bowl-eligible. More important, the Terps - who had been anxious to avoid the sort of letdown they suffered in earlier games in which they were favored - pulled ahead of Wake Forest and Boston College and are tied with Florida State at the top of the Atlantic Division.
Senior defensive tackle Jeremy Navarre said that after playing in the Emerald Bowl last season and the Champs Sports Bowl before that, the Terps want an ACC title and a shot at the Orange Bowl. "We want a ring," said Navarre, whose sack of Wilson pushed N.C. State out of field-goal range with the score tied at 24 on the Wolfpack's next-to-last possession.
The Terps won largely because Da'Rel Scott rebounded from a three-fumble game the previous week and a nagging shoulder injury to run for 163 yards on 23 carries. Scott's 24-yard run staked Maryland to a 24-17, third-quarter lead.
Scott appeared to aggravate his shoulder injury on Maryland's final drive. He hesitated coming out of the game, then exited holding one arm awkwardly and pumping his other arm to his team and the crowd.
Maryland took the ball after Navarre's sack and ran 15 plays for the win. Turner put the Terps in Egekeze's range by hitting freshman running back Davin Meggett on a third-down screen pass for 31 yards to the Wolfpack 4-yard line.
Friedgen said Turner had struggled in practice getting the ball over onrushing defensive linemen. "It's a tough throw to make because there's always a guy in your face," Turner said. "I kind of lobbed it up and let Meggett run under it."
Said Friedgen: "My heart was in my mouth. When he caught it, [offensive coordinator] James [Franklin] said, 'Touchdown!' "
Maryland almost won it one play earlier when Darrius Heyward-Bey appeared to grasp Turner's pass in the end zone before it was knocked away by Clem Johnson. An official review determined Heyward-Bey didn't have possession. "Of course I thought it was a touchdown," Turner said. "Then again, we hadn't been getting calls all day long."
Conditions were so sloppy that the issue wasn't whether there would be turnovers and mistakes - there would be - but how costly and to whom.
A Wolfpack fumble led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Meggett in the second quarter to put Maryland ahead 17-14. A fumble by normally sure-handed Danny Oquendo resulted in a Wolfpack field goal to tie the score at 17.
But Wilson, who scrambled effectively, said, "Mentally, it was 95 degrees and I was ready to go."
Among those chasing Wilson was Philistin, who left the game in the first quarter after making three tackles. "I think they said he bruised his shoulder," Friedgen said. "They think he'll be back."
Already watching from the sideline was senior cornerback Kevin Barnes, wearing his red jersey and a black knit cap. Barnes was injured last week and is out for the season.
"Somebody had to step up," defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said. He said linebacker Chase Bullock did just that, replacing Philistin and recording 11 tackles.
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What went right
Maryland didn't play as well as it did the previous week against Wake Forest, but the Terps made the needed plays on offense and defense in the fourth quarter. Da'Rel Scott played better than he had since injuring his shoulder in Week 3, rushing for 163 yards. Chase Bullock filled in at linebacker with a career-high 11 tackles.
What went wrong
Maryland struggled to keep speedy quarterback Russell Wilson in the pocket. He threw two touchdown passes and had a 27-yard run. Normally sure-handed Danny Oquendo dropped a punt in the rain.
Maryland's defense didn't stop North Carolina State on its first two possessions. But the third series ended when Jamari McCollough recovered a fumble at the Wolfpack 24-yard line. The defense made its biggest play when Jeremy Navarre sacked Wilson for a 12-yard loss with the score tied late in the fourth quarter.
What it means
With one conference loss, Maryland keeps its hopes alive for an Atlantic Coast Conference title.
The Terps (6-2, 3-1 ACC) are off Saturday, then travel on Nov. 6 to Virginia Tech, which lost, 30-20, to Florida State yesterday.