North Carolina 30
-- The fourth quarter of Maryland's 33-30 overtime victory over North Carolina on Saturday afternoon was perfectly recognizable. An ACC team, on the road, was down 10 points and as good as finished. With about 71/2 minutes remaining, that team began an improbable rally with a long touchdown pass to a previously silent wide receiver. And by the end of the game, the home team's coach was speaking of pain and disappointment, and the visiting team's players were running off the field and raising their helmets in the air.
That the victorious team was Maryland this time, though, made the outcome feel dramatically different for the Terps. Two months ago, Clemson came to College Park and launched a late onslaught that erased a 10-point deficit and turned defeat into victory. At almost the exact moment in the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon, the Terps began a remarkably similar rally that halted their two-game losing streak and moved them within one win of being eligible for a postseason bowl.
"We were thinking in our minds, 'Hey, dang, this situation seems familiar,' " said safety Milton Harris, who made a career-high 16 tackles. "But normally, we were on the other end: up by 10 with eight minutes left to go. We were like, if other teams can do it, we can come back and do it."
A series of additional twists and turns prevented Saturday's game from being a perfect duplicate. Maryland (5-4, 3-3 ACC) surged ahead on two long touchdown passes from Sam Hollenbach and seemed to have the game in hand when Harris forced a fumble on the Tar Heels' next possession.
But after the Terrapins failed to run out the clock, North Carolina (4-5, 3-3) got a last chance and converted, tying the score on Connor Barth's 24-yard field goal with nine seconds left.
That kick forged a tie only because Barth's counterpart, Maryland junior Dan Ennis, had missed an extra point following Hollenbach's final touchdown pass. So the Terps entered their first overtime game of the year with a place kicker who had already missed two field goal attempts and an extra point, clanging balls off both the right and left uprights.
Maryland got the ball first in overtime, ran four times and averted disaster when Cedrick Holt dropped a would-be interception. On the next play, Ennis drilled a 28-yard field goal to put his team ahead.
The Tar Heels then failed to get a first down, and when Barth's 38-yard attempt was wide right, Ennis was no longer a culprit.
"You always know that you're going to get a second shot, that's just how it works," he said. "For some reason, you always get a shot at redemption."
Hollenbach could sympathize. The junior quarterback, who returned after missing most of Maryland's last game because of a shoulder injury, threw two costly interceptions before leading Saturday's rally. One interception was returned by 280-pound defensive lineman Kyndraus Guy to the Maryland 6-yard line, setting up the Tar Heels' first touchdown. The other was returned 25 yards for a touchdown by safety Kareen Taylor, giving North Carolina its 10-point fourth quarter lead.
But on his next pass, Hollenbach found Jo Jo Walker for a 67-yard touchdown, Walker's only catch of the day. And on his next pass after that, Hollenbach connected with Danny Melendez on an 80-yard touchdown. And by the end of overtime, Maryland had its fifth win, needing only to beat Boston College at home or North Carolina State on the road to finish with a winning record.
"Things weren't looking real good, and the kids kind of showed what they're made of," said Coach Ralph Friedgen, who added he has never felt as drained as he did Saturday afternoon. "This win gives us a fighting chance."
Terps Notes: Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter and was taken to hospital for tests, although he was released and traveled back to College Park with his teammates. It was the third concussion suffered by a Maryland starter this year, and it could leave Wilson unavailable to play against Boston College. . . . Sophomore running back Lance Ball carried a career-high 39 times for 161 yards. Hollenbach set a career high with 374 passing yards. . . . Wide receiver Drew Weatherly, who did not practice last week because of a concussion, did not travel to North Carolina. Sources said Weatherly was one of the Maryland players suspended for their roles in an off-campus fight last week. Asked if Weatherly was serving a suspension, Friedgen said, "No, he was injured."