There is no more thankless job than kicker on a college football team. But when you miss two game-deciding kicks - the first an extra point, the second a chip-shot, straight-ahead 33-yarder - you're really not making it easy on yourself.
So went things for Brad Craddock. In one of the craziest college football games I've ever seen - involving three quarterbacks, each more effective than the last, a true freshman QB burning his redshirt with thirty seconds to go before leading a potentially game-winning drive, and two game-winning field goal attempts in the final forty seconds - it came down to Craddock in the end, his final kick clanging off the left upright and sending intense pain through Maryland's fanbase. So, despite a furious second-half comeback led by former receiver Devin Burns, and then another led by true freshman Caleb Rowe in the most unforgiving of situations, Maryland fell in a crazy, wild, and potentially very important game to N.C. State, 20-18.
I'm too upset to write too much, which is one of the great negatives about being a blogger. Journalists emotionally detach themselves, or at least try to; fans get to vent. I'm in no mood to write out things - anything, basically - about this game. So this will be short.
First off: I love this team. A lot of you, especially those of you who view sports with an ironic raised eyebrow, probably don't. But they show an extraordinary amount of heart, every single game. Lose your starting quarterback, Perry Hills, to what looked like a season-ending leg injury? Bring in the backup, Devin Burns, a converted wide receiver, and kickstart the offense to lead a comeback. Give up that lead, get the ball with :32 seconds left and the ball at the 25 needing two points? Very well, the option won't work, let's bring in true freshman Caleb Rowe. He burnt his redshirt in unfair circumstances by anyone's measure. And yet there he goes, completing passes, avoiding pressure, and putting Maryland in position to win the game. It was storybook stuff.
And that's why the loss hurts. When you don't particularly love a team, like the 2-10 team several years ago, or feel much of a connection to them, losses hurt, but not like this. When this happens, when you like a team and want them to win not only for your sake but also for theirs. I'm not only upset for me, but I'm devastated for Perry, Devin, Caleb, Stefon, Joe, Darin, and Demetrius. And, yes, Brad.
Even fewer people will agree with me on that last note. But I do feel bad for Craddock, an Aussie rules punter who is almost assuredly new to placekicking, placed in a pressure situation as a freshman when he wasn't even supposed to be on the field. (Nick Ferrara, who ended up with a career-ending injury earlier in the year, was counted upon to be the kicker while Craddock learned the trade.) I'm not making excuses for missing the kicks - if you're an FBS kicker, those are gimmee kicks you simply need to make. No matter the circumstances. But he's a likable guy, and he'll get more than his fair share of hate from bloodthirsty fans.
Worst of all, it's impossible not to look ahead and see the schedule opening up for Maryland. Boston College next week. Then 3-4 Georgia Tech. There was a very palpable chance Maryland could've been 7-2 and 5-0 in the ACC heading down the stretch. Instead, they're 4-3 and postseason play is still up in the air.
There's an incredible amount of stuff to sift through in the future, especially with a brewing QB controversy. (Burns let Maryland run, but Rowe looked great at the end.) I'll have stuff up on that in the coming days, but not now. For now, I sulk.