It was a perfect day for the Maryland football team.
On a lovely fall afternoon, with a homecoming crowd of 40,016 in attendence, the Terrapins played their best game of the season and stomped North Carolina State, 24-0, dominating almost from start to finish.
This was a complete team effort.
Tireless tailback Charlie Wysocki gained 132 yards on 31 carries, scored the first touchdown and generally treated State's defenders like bowling pins. It was the sixth 100-yard game of the season for Wysocki, who raised his season total to 1,105 yards while passing Louis Carter into second place on the school's alltime rushing list. He now has 2,348 yards and trails only Steve Atkins, who finished with 2,971.
Quarterback Mike Tice, who learned he would start less than two hours before kickoff, played a solid, unspectacular game, making several key plays in the first half while it was still a contest.
Kicker Dale Castro came up with a 48-yard field goal and another brilliant punting performance.
And the defense shut down an N.C. State team that had been averaging 325 yards a game, scored a touchdown and created four turnovers.
The shoutout, Maryland's first this season, was the first for State since 1970, 112 games. The Terps raised their Atlantic Coast Conference record to 3-1 and their overall mark to 6-3 while State fell to 2-3, 4-4.
"It was our best game of the season," Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne said. "I thought the defense played a superb game and our kicking game was just terrific."
The kicking game and the defense broke open the contest.
The Terps had a 10-0 halftime lead on Wysocki's one-yard run and Castro's field goal. But on State's first possession of the third quarter, the Wolfpack moved from the Maryland 47 to a first down at the 11, the last 12 yards coming on a roughing the passer penalty. Then came two key plays.
First, on second down from the nine, State Coach Monte Kiffin called a halfback option pass. Quarterback Tol Avery flipped to Wayne McLean cutting to his right. Todd Baker was standing all alone in the end zone, waiting either for the football or a passing bus.He caught neither as McLean heaved the ball five yards over his head.
A play later, on fourth down from the five, Nathan Ritter trotted in to try a field goal. Ritter is known in North Carolina as the "bionic toe." A 21-yard field goal is a chip shot for him.
But not yesterday. Lloyd Burruss made sure of that, flying in from the outside to cleanly block the kick. It was his second blocked field goal this season, fifth of his college career.
The ball bounced off Burruss and bounded toward midfield. Defensive end Joe Aluisi picked it up and was tackled at the Maryland 46. The Terps didn't move on that possession, but the tone of the game was established.
Castro punted State into a hole at the 10. The Wolfpack didn't move, punted and the Terps got to the Wolfpack 33. There, on fourth and one, Claiborne chose not to go for the first down and not to go for a 50-yard field goal into the wind.
Seconds later Claiborne's motivation for the punt became apparent.
Castro, a master at hanging the ball for the kicking team to run under, did just that and Dave D'Addio downed the ball a foot from the goal line. State got one yard on two plunges. Then, on third and nine, Avery dropped into his end zone to pass.
The rush came.Not wanting to be tackled for a safety as Wake's Jay Venuto was here two weeks ago, Avery tried to throw a flare into the flat to wide receiver Mike Quick. Instead he threw the ball right into the hands of defensive end Mark Wilson, the man who had tackled Venuto.
"I saw that the quarterback was in trouble," said Wilson, a junior transfer from Ferrum (Va.) College who was Maryland's last signee this year. "He looked over toward the receiver, then all of a sudden threw.It came right to me. My first instinct was to run with it. I was really surprised to see the ball right there in my hands."
He was even more surprised seconds later when he was tackled -- by his jubilant teammates. The play also produced the closest thing to a Maryland injury all day. In his excitement, defensive tackle Todd Benson turned a somersault and slightly twisted an ankle.
It was that kind of day for the Terps. The Wolfpack simply wasn't capable of hurting them.
"It was just a super team effort by everyone especially the defense," said Tice, who played despite a still very sore hip. "I'm especially glad the defense finally got the shutout it deserves. They'd given up a couple cheap touchdowns before because of our mistakes."
Wilson's touchdown, with 2:31 left in the third quarter, removed any remaining suspense. Claiborne substituted liberally from then on and got a nice bonus when sophomore John Nash blasted 30 yards up the middle for the Terps' final touchdown with 14:14 to play. The touchdown came on Nash's first college carry.
"We didn't even compete," Kiffin said. "They just beat us in every phase of the game. I take the blame. We didn't tackle well and we didn't play well. There isn't a college team in America that hasn't had a day like this."
For Maryland there was no apologizing to be done. Other than on the drive that led to the blocked field goal, State never got deeper than the Terrapin 44. The game was a rout in every way.
There also was a story off the field. Former Maryland quarterback Larry Dick, one of several ex-Terrapins quoted in a Washington Post series on Maryland football this week, came to the postgame interview with Clairborne. In choked tones, Dick said that while he and Claiborne disagreed on a number of points, he respected the coach, supported him and the program.
He added that while he had not been misquoted, the stories had upset him because one Maryland assistant coach had said to him, "You just about cut our hearts out."
Claiborne thanked Dick for coming and said, "Our players were kind of upset this week. Today, they went out and got after some people."