On the field with slightly more than three minutes to play today, Maryland was in a near-hopeless position against North Carolina State. It was worse off the field, because quarterback Calvin McCall was on his back with his face under a long bench.
McCall held his hands over his face. He sometimes slapped the metal slab just above him as the medical staff worked on what soon was diagnosed as a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, which almost certainly will end his season.
Even that wasn't the end of the frustration. As McCall was being driven to the locker room in a cart, linebacker Kevin Bishop suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that will require surgery. So an Atlantic Coast Conference game that the Terrapins had hoped would clinch a winning record and help them become eligible for a bowl ended with a 30-17 loss and the loss of two starters.
McCall, a redshirt freshman, and Bishop, a sophomore, will undergo magnetic resonance imaging exams Sunday. Coach Ron Vanderlinden initially indicated that McCall also would have surgery, but that was amended. A team spokesman said McCall had suffered a Grade 3 tear, the most serious, and Vanderlinden indicated that freshman Latrez Harrison will start against No. 1-ranked Florida State next week in Tallahassee.
With that game and the regular season finale at home against Virginia on Nov. 20, the Terrapins (5-4, 2-4), who have lost three of their last four games, still have a chance at that winning-record bowl-bid double. But the immediate challenge is daunting: They'll face the Seminoles and their 45-game home unbeaten streak with a quarterback who has taken fewer than two dozen snaps all season and a defense that even Vanderlinden said "has lost confidence in a lot of areas."
There were the all-too-familiar problems today on defense. The Wolfpack (6-4, 3-4) totaled 504 yards, and quarterback Jamie Barnette threw two touchdown passes.
Surprisingly, the offense also was ineffective against a scheme that had as many as nine defenders near the line of scrimmage to stop tailback LaMont Jordan. The Terrapins could muster only 241 yards, a season low, and did not score a touchdown until Jordan bulled in from the 1 early in the fourth quarter. Maryland's other touchdown came courtesy of the defense, when cornerback Tony Okanlawon scooped up a fumble on the first play and ran 21 yards.
As though only slightly unnerved, the Wolfpack immediately surged 80 yards and into a tie. Barnette, a senior who later became the ACC's leader in career touchdown passes with 59, completed 4 of 6 passes during the drive and ended it by hitting the very open Chris Coleman in the end zone from the 23.
Kent Passingham and Maryland's Brian Kopka each kicked a field goal before the Wolfpack gained what became an insurmountable lead with two touchdowns near the end of the second quarter.
There were 11 seconds left in the second quarter when Barnette rolled to his right on third and goal from the 9, then hit tight end Andy Vanderveer in the end zone. The closest Terrapin, safety Rod Littles, was at least 10 yards away.
Field goals on N.C. State's first two possessions of the second half increased the margin to 30-10. After Jordan's 14th touchdown of the season, Maryland went for it on fourth and seven from the Wolfpack 47 with 6:49 left, but McCall was sacked.
Thereafter, embarrassment faded into disaster. McCall's injury occurred with 4:17 left, when defensive tackle Nate Goodson's helmet hit his knee. Goodson was penalized for roughing the passer on the play. McCall continued and passed to Guilian Gary for an 18-yard gain before the pain became too intense.
Harrison, who had played briefly in the third quarter when McCall was knocked woozy, finished the game. He threw six passes, completed none and was intercepted three times. But he put on a brave public front.
"You can have no better game than Florida State," he said. "The number one team in the country. It's my time to step up and do what I've got to do. I'm ready to step up to the challenge."