COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The "Maryland Hex," the road blahs and another letdown after a big win, all seemed to be wiped away with one kick by N.C. State on Saturday at Byrd Stadium.
A two-point lead, with 32 seconds and 75 yards to go, seemed safe. But there's such thing as safe or easy with N.C. State, especially against Maryland, as Saturday's crazy 20-18 road win proved once again.
Led by its third-string quarterback, Maryland moved the ball all the way down to N.C. State's 15-yard line with 6 seconds left and appeared poised to improbably move to 3-0 in the ACC.
But kicker Brad Craddock, who made a 48-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter, bounced his 33-yard attempt off the left upright to give N.C. State (5-2, 2-1 ACC) its first Atlantic Division road win since 2005.
"Everything bad happens when our school plays them," N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said. "Sometimes something crazy has to happen, like it did in the end, to change everything."
Coming off of an upset of then-No. 3 Florida State on Oct. 6, Wolfpack fans were preconditioned for a letdown on Saturday, especially against Maryland, which has particularly vexed O'Brien, who called Byrd Stadium, "the Bermuda Triangle for N.C. State."
Maryland cost O'Brien and N.C. State a bowl trip in 2007, with a 37-0 win in Raleigh. The Terps sunk N.C. State's Atlantic Division title in 2010 with a 38-31 win in College Park.
Even the most successful team in N.C. State history, the 11-3 squad in 2002, lost by three points at Maryland (one of four for Wolfpack legend Philip Rivers).
Combine N.C. State's division road losing streak (16 games) and its propensity to follow-up important wins with a loss, and there was a lot of mojo working against the Wolfpack on Saturday.
The Wolfpack thought the game was in the bag after kicker Niklas Sade hit a 43-yard field goal with 32 seconds left. The Terps, who lost starting quarterback Perry Hills in the second quarter, had one more rally.
Third-string quarterback Caleb Rowe, who's a better passer than backup Devin Burns, hit two passes for 50 yards and scrambled 11 yards to move the Terps down to the Wolfpack 15-yard line.
Craddock lined up for the game-winner and everyone on N.C. State's sideline held their breath and crossed their fingers, receiver Bryan Underwood said.
"We heard a 'bing' and we knew what happened," said Underwood, who finished with a career-best 134 receiving yards and a touchdown. "We knew we couldn't leave here without a win."
The Pack almost lost and bizarrely enough the turning point was actually a good play for N.C. State. On an interception return by cornerback David Amerson with 43 seconds left in the first half, Hills got injured on a block by N.C. State linebacker Rickey Dowdy.
Dowdy was flagged for a block in the back on the hit, which cost Amerson a 79-yard touchdown, and the Terps their quarterback.
Hills injured his left knee on the play, which will likely knock the freshman out for the season. Out went Hills, and in came Burns.
"Probably the worst thing to happen to us is we knocked the quarterback out of the game," O'Brien said.
Burns only threw for 47 yards, on three completions, but he rans for 50 yards and a touchdown. Burns' 2-yard touchdown run with 3:33 left in the third quarter cut N.C. State's lead to 17-15.
On the Terps' next possession, Burns set up Craddock, who earlier in the third quarter missed an extra point, for a 48-yard field goal, which put Maryland up 18-17 at 13:39 in the fourth.
Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon (307 yards) threw for two touchdowns, a 25-yarder to fullback Logan Winkles in the first half and a 68-yarder to Underwood in the third quarter, reprised his late-game magic from the FSU upset.
Glennon hit five passes on the game-winning drive with a 14-yarder to receiver Rashard Smith giving Sade the final yardage needed for the game-winning kick.
"I knew I could make the kick," Sade said. "It started off a little to the right, but I had a feeling it was good."
It was and N.C. State exited its Bermuda Triangle in tact.
Giglio: 919-829-8938 or twitter.com/jwgiglio