Maryland football earns 38-31 win over North Carolina State

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 28, 2010; 12:21 AM

After Torrey Smith hauled in a 71-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter Saturday, the Maryland wide receiver rose in the air and dunked the football over the 10-foot-high goal post, a celebratory snapshot for posterity.

On a day in which Maryland honored 16 seniors playing in their final home game, a junior whose college career may be nearing a close and a freshman quarterback whose career is just beginning provided the most indelible memories in a 38-31 victory over 21st-ranked North Carolina State. If this was the final home game for Smith, who is considering entering the NFL draft after this season, it was a signature send-off, what he called the best performance of his life.

Smith, who had a career-high 224 receiving yards, set school records for most touchdown receptions in a game (four) and single-season touchdown receptions (12). He also now holds Maryland's career all-purpose yards mark with 5,183. All this was accomplished despite a nagging ankle injury he has nursed since late September.

Danny O'Brien, meantime, threw for 417 yards, the most for a Maryland quarterback since Scott Milanovich in 1993. With 21 touchdown passes this season, he joins Milanovich as the only quarterbacks in school history to throw 20 or more in a single season.

"One of the better performances I have seen from a quarterback," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said.

The one caveat in Maryland's feel-good turnaround season had been the absence of a signature victory. On Friday, Friedgen challenged his team by asking players, "Are you tired of being disrespected?"

The answer was an inspired effort by Maryland, which rallied from a 14-point first-quarter deficit with 24 unanswered points before a sparse crowd of 35,370 on a chilly, windy afternoon. Despite rushing for minus-nine yards, Maryland won by forcing turnovers and taking advantage of N.C. State's decision to play Smith in one-on-one coverage.

After the game, Friedgen said that even when Maryland won games this season, the perception was "you never beat anybody. Well, we beat somebody today."

Maryland ruined N.C. State's hopes of winning the ACC's Atlantic Division title, which now belongs to Florida State. In doing so, Maryland (8-4, 5-3) may have indeed earned more respect Saturday, but their postseason hopes remain the same: The Terrapins most likely will play in the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium on Dec. 29 against a Conference USA team, perhaps East Carolina.

Several players said after the game that they are hopeful to play in a warm-weather locale against a high-profile team. Friedgen said he believes Maryland offers an attractive story line of a turnaround season. The bowl game that lands Maryland will also get a fast-emerging quarterback who at times even wows his own head coach.

Early in the fourth quarter, O'Brien scrambled to his left and gathered his momentum enough to unleash an accurate right-handed throw toward the left side of the end zone, where Smith, who had a step on two defenders, plucked it out of the air for a 12-yard touchdown reception. When describing the throw, Friedgen lifted his hands and placed them one foot apart.

"There was a window to throw that about this big," he said. "That was an unbelievable throw. I'm a coach, and I was like, 'Wow.' "

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