- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2003

RALEIGH, N.C. — Maryland kicker Nick Novak saved a game, a season and his reputation yesterday with one field goal.

Novak’s 43-yarder with 23 seconds remaining gave the Terrapins a 26-24 victory over N.C. State before 53,800 at Carter-Finley Stadium and atoned dramatically for a missed extra point two minutes earlier that prevented Maryland from tying the score.

Fortunately for the Terps, safety Madieu Williams’ fumble recovery at the Wolfpack’s 46 set up the game winner.

“I was afraid to go back home to College Park,” Novak said of the miss. “I just wanted to crawl in a hole. Thank God I had a second chance.”

Maryland (8-3, 5-2 ACC) clinched second place and will receive a Gator Bowl bid today, according to the bowl’s president Rick Catlett. The Terps still have to play at Wake Forest (5-6, 3-4) on Saturday, but Catlett said he will recommend not waiting to invite Maryland when the committee meets at 10 a.m.

This was the Terps’ third straight win and eighth in nine games since an 0-2 start. The impending invitation to a New Year’s Day bowl, a goal that once seemed unreachable, provided a major boost to an often frustrating third season for coach Ralph Friedgen.

“The players showed me a lot,” Friedgen said. “We’re more together now than we’ve been all season.”

An ugly bottle-throwing incident by N.C. State fans and some bitter words between the two teams marred the postgame celebration. Maryland beat N.C. State (7-5, 4-4) in a thriller for the fourth straight year and once again the game left both teams emotional.

“We were celebrating a little bit, but we weren’t trying to get into a confrontation,” Maryland running back Josh Allen said. “Neither was their team. Their fans did their team a disservice.”

Said Terps quarterback Scott McBrien: “It was disappointing it had to end like that.”

Novak’s third career-winning kick — including a late 26-yarder over N.C. State last year — made him Maryland’s all-time leading scorer with 310 points in his career. Uncharacteristically, Novak missed the potential tying extra point after hitting the left upright on the previous extra point but having the ball deflect over the crossbar anyway.

“I brought my toe up,” he said of the bad kicks. “I just locked up my ankle [on the field goal] and made good ball contact.”

N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers ended his career 0-4 against Maryland. Rivers completed 16 of 30 for 276 yards and one interception, but didn’t throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season. He was largely neutralized until the fourth quarter, when he gained 65 yards on three straight passes.

McBrien was the more composed passer in the fourth quarter, completing five of seven for 97 yards and one touchdown in leading three scoring drives over the final 6:23. He finished 17 of 37 for 243 yards with two touchdowns and one interception and also ran for a 2-yard score to bring the Terps within 24-23.

Receivers Jo Jo Walker and Rich Parson, along with Allen, also paced the rally from 14 points down. Walker’s 10-yard touchdown was among six catches for 57 yards, and Parson gained 114 yards on four catches.

Allen, meanwhile, rushed for 147 yards on 23 carries for a two-week total of 401 yards on 61 carries.

Two 1-yard touchdown runs by N.C. State’s T.A. McLendon fueled a 14-0 Wolfpack lead with 6:28 remaining in the first half. It was the first time this season Maryland’s opponent scored first.

The Terps countered with tight end Derek Miller’s 2-yard touchdown reception — only his second catch this season and first in nine games — to close within 14-7 with 1:22 remaining in the first half.

Questionable playcalling by N.C. State gave Maryland another chance with 33 seconds left in the half. The Wolfpack passed twice instead of running down the clock to permit the extra possession.

With Terps returner Steve Suter briefly in the locker room with dehydration, Parson returned a punt 51 yards to N.C. State’s 23 as the officials missed Maryland linebacker Andrew Henley’s illegal block. The Terps settled for Novak’s 29-yard field goal with five seconds remaining and trailed 14-10 at the half.

After missing a 26-yard field goal on its opening third-quarter drive, N.C. State followed with an 83-yard punt return touchdown by Tramain Hall for a 21-10 lead. The Wolfpack used two jarring hits in the opening yards of the return to clear a lane down the left side.

N.C. State later added a 32-yard field goal for a 24-10 advantage with 8:45 left.

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