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Maryland gets some definition

October 26, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland took most of the final 4:50 of Saturday's game with North Carolina State to drive 89 yards for a 20-yard Obi Egekeze field goal with six seconds remaining for a 27-24 victory that may well give some definition to a Terrapins season that has changed altitudes more than a drive in the mountains.

It was the defining moment of Maryland's season.

"This is a big win ... a crucial win for our season," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "It kind of puts us where we want to be and puts our destiny in our own hands."

For Maryland (6-2, 3-1), it came down to the anatomy of the last drive -- an 89-yard march that relied heavily on a running attack in playing conditions more suited for water polo than game-winning scores.

As a reward, the Terps are now tied with only Florida State for the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division lead. The first-place club was cut in half, thanks to losses by Wake Forest and Boston College. Maryland is now bowl eligible because of its sixth win and could quite possibly be ranked in the Top 25 today since five of the six teams in the bottom half of the poll suffered losses Saturday.

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It wasn't easy, but it was dramatic. It took a scary play from quarterback Chris Turner to lightly used running back Davin Meggett to turn the tables.

Maryland took control in a tied game, starting from its own 7, and masterfully rattled off 15 plays in 4:44 to get the winning score. The Terps changed character, going from the pass-happy group that shut out Wake Forest last week to a grind-it-out style.

"When we came on the field we were all fired up," said tight end Dan Gronkowski, who caught a big 16-yard pass from Turner midway in the drive. "We knew we were going to score. We had to overcome some penalties, but we got it done."

The biggest sequence came after running back Da'Rel Scott came off the field with an injury after a 4-yard run for a first down at the Maryland 20 on the third play of the drive. Enter Meggett, who was called on despite seeing limited action after scoring a first-half touchdown. He reappeared for what might be remembered as Maryland's biggest play of the year.

It set up as the clock ran down to :54 with Maryland on its 46 after a second holding penalty. On second-and-18, the Terps began to make their move.

"On the last drive, we were running the ball and I said to (offensive coordinator James Franklin), 'Hey, we got three minutes and we have to get down there,'" Friedgen said.

After running a sequence of plays to receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to try for a touchdown, Maryland found itself with a third-and-10 at the Wolfpack 35 with 37 seconds remaining. The call was a double screen pass with Turner hitting Meggett with a 90-degree pass on the right sideline.

"There was a guy in front of Chris' face and it is one of the throws Chris has trouble making," Friedgen said. "He got it over the guy and my heart was in my mouth. When Davin caught it, James said, 'Touchdown.' We probably should have scored."

Turner was just happy for the reception.

"When that play came in, that was in the back of my mind," Turner said of his difficulty with the play. "I was nervous, but I got it over the guy."

Meggett caught the ball and burst up the sideline for a 31-yard gain to the State 4.

"He was running hard," Gronkowski said. "Everyone was tired and he was fresh and he broke some tackles."

Friedgen decided not to take any chances. He had Turner move the ball to the middle of the field for what would have been a 23-yard attempt for Egekeze. The Wolfpack turned it into an extra point kick with a penalty.

"I just took a shot and thought he would hit that one," Friedgen said. "I told him it was just an extra point and he's hit 150 in a row of those for us."

It was the finishing touch on a dramatic game for Maryland, a game it had been known to lose in the past. But with one nervous play in a key situation, the Terps now have everything sitting in front of them.

"Getting bowl eligible is done with and now we can just focus on our next four games," Friedgen said. "We found a way to win. If you want to be a champion, you have to win games like this."

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