Maryland’s defense plays hero, Terps knock off NC State in Duke’s Mayo Bowl

With just two minutes left to play, NC State took the field with hopes of taking back the lead. Ben Finley stepped back for a deep throw and launched the ball to half-field, where Jakorian Bennett picked off the pass. Minutes later, four gallons of mayonnaise poured onto the head of head coach Mike Locksley.

“It had a little different smell than I expected,” head coach Mike Locksley said in his post-game presser. “I told our team sometimes you gotta sacrifice yourself for the good of the team, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Early this season, Maryland’s defense created uncertainty about its capabilities. Today, the defense played hero as Maryland held NC State without a touchdown, clinching a second-straight year with a bowl victory, beating the Wolfpack, 16-12.

The 7-5 Maryland Terrapins traveled to Charlotte for the long-anticipated Duke’s Mayo Bowl, facing off against the No. 23 NC State Wolfpack who finished their season 8-4. This marked Maryland’s 29th appearance in a bowl game, following last year’s 54-10 win against Virginia Tech in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

QB Billy Edwards Jr. started things off for Maryland on offense, handing the ball off to RB Roman Hemby on two straight snaps before making a 44-yard pass to WR Jeshaun Jones. In three plays, Edwards landed the Terps just outside the red zone. Several rush attempts placed Maryland just a yard away from the endzone, but NC State impressively prevented a touchdown on fourth down.

After Maryland turned the ball over on downs, NC State received the ball on its own 15-yard line. On just his second snap of the game, QB Ben Finley threw an interception to LB Fa’Najae Gotay, who made it to NC State’s 23-yard line before being tackled. 

With QB Taulia Tagovailoa now at the helm just outside the redzone, Maryland looked to score first. On 3rd & 10, Tagovailoa threw an interception in the endzone that was picked off by SS Cyrus Fagan.

A 36-yard pass from Finley to WR Thayer Thomas landed the Wolfpack in Maryland territory. The drive ended with a 38-yard field goal from Christopher Dunn to put NC State on the board first with a 3-0 lead.

A strong punt return from WR Octavian Smith Jr. landed Maryland on the 47-yard line. A 25-yard run from Tagovailoa put Maryland on NC State’s 28-yard line, but the Terps struggled to push much further. Chad Ryland’s 42-yard field goal brought the game to a 3-3 tie.

Five minutes into the second quarter, Tagovailoa connected a 26-yard pass to WR Tai Felton to put the Terps on NC State’s 26-yard line. A sizable run from Hemby placed Maryland on the 15-yard mark, and the drive finished with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Octavian Smith Jr. Maryland finally managed to take the lead, going up 10-3.

In the final minutes of the first half, Finley managed to connect a series of deep passes to get the Wolfpack in the red zone. A completion to TE Christopher Toudle landed NC State on Maryland’s 2-yard line, but Maryland’s defense forced a 19-yard field goal from Dunn on fourth down. 

With 18 seconds left, Dunn kicked his third field goal of the game to bring the Wolfpack within a single point to tie. The score at half was 10-9, Maryland.

On Maryland’s first possession of the second half, Tagovailoa managed to boost the offensive production with a 23-yard pass to Jeshaun Jones to get into NC State territory. Unable to convert on third down, Chad Ryland then booted a 33-yard field goal to put the Terps up by four.

NC State struggled on offense in the third quarter, punting on three straight possessions. Refusing to run the ball against Maryland’s above-par run defense, Finley failed to complete more than two passes on his first two drives.

“To stop the run and keep them in those third and long situations is a testament to those big guys up front,” Coach Locksley said.

But even as the Wolfpack began to slow, the Terrapins failed to take advantage on offense.

On Maryland’s first offensive snap of the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa threw his first interception of the game to S Rakeim Ashford, who brought the ball down at Maryland’s own 35-yard line.

With under half the field to work with, Ben Finley connected a 19-yard pass with Toudle to land the Wolfpack in the red zone. Maryland’s defense withheld NC State from a touchdown but forced a 26-yard field goal from Christopher Dunn to narrow the Terps’ lead to a single point.

On Maryland’s next possession, Tagovailoa launched the ball to TE Corey Dyches for a 30-yard gain to get the Terrapins in Wolfpack territory once again. The drive was seemingly familiar as NC State kept Roman Hemby from finding the first down, forcing a 45-yard field goal from Chad Ryland to put Maryland ahead by four yet again.

“Those guys [from the transfer portal] show up with a chip on their shoulder to prove that they belong playing at this level, and Chad is a tremendous example of what that’s all about,” Coach Locksley said. Ryland finished with three field goals and an extra point to give Maryland its win.

With two and a half minutes remaining, Tagovailoa failed to convert on third down, which would have essentially ended the game. NC State took the field, but Ben Finley’s first throw was an interception to CB Jakorian Bennett.

Maryland’s offense took the field and ran down the clock.

“The next step for us is to start competing for Big Ten championships,” Coach Locksley said. “There’s some people out there that will laugh at us, but if you take a Terp for granted, I promise you, we’ll make you pay.”