Epic collapse. (I'd say it's unbelievably epic, but sadly that isn't true: even the players on the team had a feeling of eventuality.) But I digress: if Maryland needed to find the perfect way to cap off this season, I think they nailed it here.
After an incredibly painful season full of disappointment, heartache, and frustration, it looked like there was a light in the tunnel, a bright little silver lining upon which future successes could be built. Maryland, playing for nothing but pride, had an N.C. State team fighting for bowl eligibility on the ropes in Raleigh, holding a 27-point, 41-14 lead in third quarter.
And then the Wolfpack scored 42 consecutive, unanswered points in the span of 21 minutes, capping the second-largest comeback in ACC history with a 56-41 win - or, if you're a Maryland fan, the second-biggest collapse in ACC history.
Maryland had a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, and lost by 15. That's where we're at in life right now.
I'm not sure anyone wants to read a recap, but for the sake of completion we'll go through the motions. Maryland's lead was largely built upon an avalanche of first-half N.C. State mistakes, including three fumbles - one of them entirely unforced, with James Washington simply dropping the ball - and a Mike Glennon interception. Two of N.C. State's four turnovers resulted in Maryland defensive touchdowns, as A.J. Hendy (interception) and Dexter McDougle (fumble recovery) took their takeaways to the house. And Maryland's offense clicked as much as it had all year, scoring three TDs of their own in the first half, matching their best single-half output of the season. On the strength of two touchdowns from C.J. Brown, Maryland took a 34-14 lead into the half.
And for a few minutes, it looked like the second half would be more of the same. Davin Meggett took a 46-yard touchdown to the house, and N.C. State had to punt. Leading 41-14, all was right in the world.
Here's the drive chart for Maryland's next six possessions: punt, punt, fumble, interception, punt, interception.
And here's the drive chart for N.C. State's next six possessions: passing touchdown, passing touchdown, rushing touchdown, rushing touchdown, passing touchdown, interception return touchdown.
In short: everything went to hell in a handbasket.
People will look to assign blame, with good reason. Part of the problem was the offensive ineptitude; obviously, they had six straight possessions in the second half with nothing out of them. And remember that 14 of the 41 points were actually defensive scores, and another touchdown only had to go 32 yards. 41 points is a misleading number. Of course, there was also the never-ending time of possession problem: the Wolfpack won that battle 35 minutes to 25 minutes today.
Others will blame the defensive play calling, namely a fourth-and-12 when Maryland rushed three, dropped eight, and still gave up a wide open, 13-yard reception. Others will be blame the lack of depth on defense, which has routinely come back to hurt the Terrapins in second halves.
There were also problems with discipline, which is strange for a disciplinarian coaching staff. Maryland had several key penalties, including two 15-yarders late in the game to set up State with good field position and extend drives. Still others will blame the players for a lack of execution, and that has its place, too.
As does Randy Edsall. It is, after all, his job to ensure that the players execute the plays, as well as to make sure the right coordinators are hired to call the plays. He failed miserably on both accounts today. But his worst failure is far greater: the attitude of the team was so depressed, so defeated that as soon as one thing went wrong, everything went wrong. N.C. State began to make their comeback and Maryland more or less rolled over. They lost all fire. And while I'd never claim to be certain about such things, I'm extremely confident that that can, in part, be traced back to the disconnect between Edsall and his team.
The commentators on the ACC Network consistently referred to Edsall's comment that "everything that could've gone wrong this season, has gone wrong." I would counter with my own: "Everything that Maryland could've done wrong this season, they've done wrong." N.C. State tried to give away this game, and Maryland gave it right back.
Enjoy what's left of your Saturday. We'll have the Stock Report (EVERYBODY FAILS) tomorrow, as well as some season-review type things, just in case you aren't depressed enough.