There was dejection in the Glazer Auditorium as the Terrapins trudged in, crushed moments earlier by a 20-18 loss to North Carolina State, one that came within six inches of a dramatic, hallmark homecoming win.
But for as young as this Maryland football team is, with all the true freshman on the offensive end and the cavalcade of backups rolling in thanks to the injury bug, each player who spoke with members of the media insisted on assuming some form of accountability.
Wes Brown, who became the first Maryland player to top 100 rushing yards since 2011, demanded to shoulder the burden for a fumble with 3:34 left in the game. “Sick,” Brown said, when asked his emotions after the game. “No, not at all,” he emphatically stated, when asked if he had earned the starting rushing job.
He wanted to take full responsibility, just like defensive lineman A.J. Francis did for the defense moments earlier.
Brad “Craddock will bounce back,” Francis said. “He shouldn’t have been in that position to begin with. We should have closed the game when they had no timeouts.”
Instead, Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon issued his second comeback in as many games, setting up the 43-yard, game-winning field goal with 32 seconds left. Caleb Rowe came on and set up a 33-yarder, which Craddock banged off the left upright.
As soon as the football struck iron and bounded away toward a cheering N.C. State fan section, Craddock collapsed to the ground. Animated and charismatic, the Australian import is often seen pounding helmets after a make, or striking his fists into the air after a miss. He made field goals from 36 and 48 yards on Saturday, but also missed a third-quarter extra point.
This time, Craddock clutched his face mask, his back flat on the ground while white Wolfpack jerseys stormed the field in celebration.
“My teammates were really supportive,” Craddock said. “They were telling me that there were so many other opportunities during the game to earn those points. They kept telling me that it wasn’t my fault. It’s never good when you miss one, but that comes with being a kicker. You just have to play through it.”
Glennon passed for 307 yards on a 48.9 completion percentage, though 68 came on a touchdown to Bryan Underwood midway through the third quarter. N.C. State’s slot receiver ran a fly route, and no safety was in sight. But Maryland’s defense, which has carried this team through its offensive sluggishness and youth-based struggles, held the Wolfpack to two punts and a turnover on downs after Craddock put the Terps up 18-17.
Maryland’s offense had a chance to put the game away, gaining possession at its 44-yard line with 2:40 left. Three Brown rushes, for three yards apiece, were each met with a Wolfpack timeout. Rather than risk a fourth-and-one conversion near midfield, Edsall punted. N.C. State took over at its 20. The Terps needed one stop from a defense that had mustered many to this point in the season.
“We had them,” Edsall said, “but one of our guys lost his man and they completed the pass.” Three Glennon completions of 17, 14 and 14 yards brought the Wolfpack into field goal range.
“We need to play all 60 minutes and we didn’t,” Francis said. “We weren’t sure we would even get back on the field, but when we did, we didn’t come up who we should have. And we lost the game because of it.”