- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Nick Novak is anonymous around College Park, Md., even if his name is not.

With his moderate size and average looks, the Maryland kicker blends in well around campus. The freshman looks just like any other student navigating the vast university.

But this has been and unusual week as he's walked the campus and attended class. He heard himself being talk about by fellow students, who didn't know he was standing right there.

Novak created this buzz after he kicked a 46-yard field goal to force overtime last week in the 12th-ranked Terrapins stunning 20-17 victory over No. 23 Georgia Tech. He then was elevated to legendary status after he kicked the game-winning 26-yarder in the extra session.

The 46-yard shot with no time remaining kept alive Maryland perfect season, now at 6-0. The Terps, who are off to their best start since 1978, ensured themselves of a winning regular season and became bowl eligible for the first time in six seasons. They are all but assured of returning to the postseason for the first time in 11 years.

"I had no idea how much was riding on that kick," Novak said. "I didn't even check the yard marker when I was setting up. After it, I realized we were bowl eligible. So many good things came out of that kick. It blows my mind."

Novak, the son of two Purdue University professors, earned is way into Maryland folklore with the kicks that ultimately ended a 34-game losing streak against ranked opponents. And he did it on national television (ESPN). Those kicks now have Maryland football thinking big for the first time in more than a decade.

"It kicked us into a whole new season," holder Brooks Barnard said.

Maryland will attempt to go 7-0 and 5-0 in the ACC this Saturday when winless Duke (0-6, 0-4) visits Byrd Stadium.

Novak's success late last Thursday was even more astonishing considering the struggles he had. He missed seven of 11 attempts this year, with and his longest kick coming from 33 yards. After Novak won the starting job in the preseason, coach Ralph Friedgen reopened the competition because of Novak's woes. However, Novak won the position again, but it was shaping up to be a difficult season for the rookie.

"It's obvious he felt like he was snakebitten," Friedgen said. "You don't know what that's going to do for him as a person and how it's going to affect the rest of his life. We all go through some tough times. We just have to persevere. He'll have some setbacks, but he will always have this reserve that he's done it and he can come back and do it again."

Novak was actually helped by a Georgia Tech timeout, which was meant to unnerve him before his game-tying attempt. The kicking team rushed on the field after quarterback Shaun Hill spiked the ball to stop the clock with :05 remaining.

"Before they iced me, I was pumped a little bit," said Novak, who had made a 50-yard field goal in high school in Charlottesville. "I had my mouthpiece actually in my facemask."

Novak went over to talk to Friedgen during the break and the coach reminded him of a 50-yarder he hit a day earlier in practice.

"The timeout helped," Barnard said. "It allowed us to get the adrenaline down. We were excited just to get in that position. The timeout allowed us to dry-run things and picture what everybody got to do."

And the rest is something they'll be talking about in College Park for a long time.

Barnard took a high snap , set it down perfectly on the left hash mark, and the right-footed Novak crushed it.

"I know the feeling of hitting the ball flush," Novak said. "I knew once I hit it it was going through. It was the greatest feeling of my life."

Many of his teammates on the sideline held hands, said silent prayers and couldn't bear to watch a kick that would decide the game and go along way toward determining the season. They soon exploded, Barnard danced wildly, and Novak broke down in tears as his teammates mobbed him.

The freshman made that kick meaningful when he nailed a 26-yarder in to make it 20-17 after Maryland got the ball first in overtime. Georgia Tech lost the game when tailback Joe Burns fumbled and Maryland safety Randall Jones recovered.

Despite his struggles earlier in the season, Novak prove that both he and the Terps were ready for primetime. The celebration didn't stop there as the team came back to campus early Friday morning and was at Cole Field House later that day when the basketball team opened practice with Midnight Madness.

"We were at March Madness, which is a basketball function, and the crowd was chanting '6-0'," receiver Guilian Gary said. "They were chanting for Nick Novak. We threw him out there and they were going crazy."

It was probably the first time many had seen Novak's face, but certainly not he first time they said his name.

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