It was, as several of Dale Castro's Maryland teammates pointed out later, a scene straight out of the movies.
The game was tied, Maryland 14, North Carolina 14. There was 1:26 remaining. The Terrapins, underdogs in this matchup of two teams that do not like each other, were on the Carolina 26, fourth down and six.
In trotted Castro. He had kicked 15 field goals this season without a miss, one short of the NCAA record.
"I knew he was going to make it," offensive guard Paul Glamp said. "No question in my mind."
Castro hit the 43-yarder and Maryland held on to upset the 17th-ranked Tar Heels, 17-14, in front of 35,618 in Byrd Stadium.
"It was one of those games," Maryland quarterback Mike Tice said. "There were bodies littered all over the field. Both teams wanted if so bad it was unbelievable."
Carolina wanted it bad enough that, with six seconds left, it eschewed the opportunity to go for a field goal that would have tied the game. Having driven from their 20 to the Maryland 21 after Castro's field goal, the Tar Heels could have called on Jeff Hays, who kicked a 47-yarder a week ago to salvage a tie against East Carolina.
But field goal never crossed North Carolina Coach Dick Crum's mind.
"We were thinking about the conference title," he said later. "A field goal did us no good."
Crum used his last timeout to call a play. "There were three options," quarterback Matt Kupec explained. "Amos (Lawrence) went to the flag, Jeff Gray ran a crossing pattern and Billy (Johnson) ran short. He was my third option. The other two covered."
To the surprise to virtually everyone in the stadium, including the Maryland defense, Kupec threw underneath to fullback Johnson, who was run out of bounds at the 14-yard line by linebacker Brain Matera.
There appeared to be one second left on the clock when Johnson crossed the sideline. But the clock ran to zero and the Terrapins celebrated a 5-4 record, 2-2 in the ACC.
The Tar Heels were left 5-2-1, 1-2 in the conference, and Crum called fowl.
"With six seconds left I thought we had time for two plays," Crum said. "We were going to run one and then see where we were. When the official signaled for the clock to stop, there was time left. But, up here with their guying running the clock, there isn't much you can do."
The clock operator is part of the chain crew and is hired by the home team. The referee has the power to overrule the clock operator if he feels he is in error.
"If Matt Kupec throws the ball well in the first half we don't need that play," Kupec pointed out. "We just blew it."
Whether Carolina blew it or was simply beaten by a fired-up team is an open question. From play one it was a different Maryland team. It hit harder, its offense played with confidence and only one big play by the Carolina defense and one mistake by quaterback Mike Tice kept the game from turning into an early rout.
On Carolina's first series Johnson, who finished with 20 carries for 118 yards, fumbled on the Carolina 36 and cornerback Sam Medile jumped on the ball at the 33.
Maryland drove to the Carolina one. On fourth down, Coach Jerry Claiborne called a sweep play for wingback Jan Carinci.
"It was the sweep but when I took the snap I saw this big hole," Tice said. "I knew I could get through it and score."
Tice was wrong. The hole closed and he came up short.
"I thought then that maybe I should just get up and head for the locker room," Tice said, smiling sheepishly. "I wasn't too excited about facing coach on the sideline."
But Tice was not to be a goat this day. Before it was over he completed 17 of 24 passes for 162 yards and rushed 50 yards on 10 carries. Included were two third-down pickups on the winning field-goal drive.
"We've been waiting all year for Mike to run like that," Claiborne said. "Today, he did everything well."
The next time Maryland got to the one-yard line, Tice ran the play sent in to him. He dutifully handed off to tailback Charlie Wysocki and the sophomore dived into the end zone. Playing for the first time in three weeks. Wysocki picked up 83 yards on 26 carries. He touchdown made it 7-0 Maryland with 4:57 left in the first quarter.
The Maryland defense continued to dominate, bottling up Kupec and the Carolina running game, getting a helping hand from Castro, whose punts kept the Tar Heels pinned deep. The Terps were unable to take advantage, however, until late in the second quater.
Tice's 38-yard pass to Gary Ellis put the ball on the Carolina eight. The Terps made it 14-0 with 1:41 left in the half on a nine-yard pass from Tice to his brother John -- who caught five passes.
"Mike was a different quaterback the last two weeks," Carinci said. "I swear it's just amazing. I can't figure it out. You stand next to the guy in the huddle and he just oozes confidence now. It wasn't that way before."
The Terps' confidence almost took a nose dive when Castro, on the ensuing kickoff, got his signals crossed with the special teams coach, Terry Strock.
"He was telling me to kick the ball low and deep -- squib it," Castro said. "I thought he meant onside it. It was the only one on our side playing an onside kick."
The dribbed kick went three yards and North Carolina took over on the Maryland 43.But on third down at the 22, with 11 seconds left in the half, Kupec tried to find Grey in the corner of the end zone.Safety Ralph Lary swooped in for his fifth interception of the year to end the half.
Maryland's 14-0 lead did not hold up as Carolina battled back in the third quarter.
With Johnson booming up the middle, and tailbacks Lawrence and Doug Paschal (18 carries, 87 yards) running effectively, Carolina drove 63 yards and 75 yards for touchdowns.
Each drive had two key plays. On the first, Paschal was successful on fourth and two at the Maryland 23, setting up Kupec's seven-yard pass to Mike Chatham for a touchdown. On the second, Paschal smashed five yards on fourth and one at the Terp 27. It set up another Kupec-Chatham strike, this one for 10 yards, and the score was tied at 14 with 1:45 left in the third quarter.
Perhaps the most determined Terrapin was Tice. The subject of much criticism this season, he was benched three games ago after a 7-0 loss to North Carolina State.With time running out, Tice picked up two third downs running and completed passes to Carinci for 17-yards and to Ellis for 11 to set up Castro's field goal.
"During the drive I tried to keep moving around to keep warm," Castro said. "I wasn't nervous when I went out there. I just wanted to make up for my mistake on the onside kick. I made sure to line the tee up straight. When the ball took off it didn't hook right away and I was sweating it. It just did go through the upright."
With the wind behind him, Castro sailed the ball 15 yards past the uprights.
"It was like right out of the movies," Lary said. "The NCAA record and all. I had every bone in my body crossed. When he made it I went crazy, I started jumping up and down. Then I said, 'Oh God, we still have to hold them'".
The Terps held them, but barely, and even Claiborne, the classic stoic, had to admit this win was kind of special.
Backup tailback Wayne Wingfield who was hit in the second quater by North Carolina safety Ricky Barden, has torn ligaments in a knee and will undergo surgery Monday.
Starting center Kyle Lorton suffered a bruised knee and left the field on crutches. Lorton should be ready for the Nov. 17 contest against Louisville.