RALEIGH, N.C. — Maryland has had plenty of disappointments this season. None was tougher to take than the last one.
The Terrapins blew a 27-point lead in the second half of a 56-41 loss to North Carolina State on Saturday.
Maryland led 41-14 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter before allowing the Wolfpack to score six straight times they touched the ball during the biggest comeback in N.C. State history and the second-biggest comeback in an ACC game.
"This is one of the worst feelings of my life," Terps linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield said. "We had a lot of confidence going on in the first half and after we scored in the second half. Then, no one on defense could make a stop. We had a couple of situations where we could've come up big but didn't. We needed to be tougher in those situations.
C.J. Brown rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another for Maryland (2-10, 1-7 ACC), which lost its last eight games under first-year coach Randy Edsall and dropped its school-record fifth in a row by double figures.
"We'll sit down and evaluate everything," Edsall said. "We have to look forward, not back. It was a disappointing season. Tomorrow is another day."
Davin Meggett's 46-yard scoring run in the third quarter gave the Terrapins their biggest lead.
"This is the way our season has gone," Brown said. "We could not put together a full game. We had to step up and make a play and we couldn't."
James Washington ran 1 yard for the go-ahead score with 7:08 left for the Wolfpack (7-5, 4-4), who followed up their upset of then-No. 7 Clemson with a victory that might have been even more shocking.
"When this football team was 2-3, there weren't a lot of people that believed we could win five out of the next seven games except the people in this building," coach Tom O'Brien said. "You hitch up your britches, you buckle your chin strap, you go to work and you start grinding. And that's what we did. ... There's probably not a lot of people, in the middle of the third quarter today — except those guys on the bench — who would have believed that the outcome would have been (what) it was."
The Wolfpack scored 35 points in the fourth quarter as part of a rally surpassed in an ACC game only by Clemson's comeback from a 28-point deficit to beat Virginia 29-28 in 1992.
"It's the greatest thing I've ever been a part of," tight end George Bryan said.
Mike Glennon finished 36 of 55 for 306 yards and five touchdowns and became the second Wolfpack player to account for six TDs in a game, joining Philip Rivers in that exclusive club.
He had touchdown passes covering 4 and 11 yards to Tony Creecy, 7 yards to Jay Smith, 6 yards to Tobais Palmer and 7 yards to Bryan for N.C. State, which needed to win seven games to become eligible because two of its victories came against FCS teams.
It took a remarkable rally to make that happen.
"We're not trying to put ourselves in this situation, but it's a great win," Glennon said. "To do that on the stage that it was, that we knew we had (to win) to go to a bowl game, was pretty special."
Glennon started the comeback with his touchdown pass to Palmer with just under 6 minutes left in the third. Then he threw a second scoring pass to Creecy on the first play of the fourth quarter, pulling N.C. State within 13.
Meggett fumbled on the Terrapins' next play, and four plays later, Glennon sneaked in from 1 yard out to make it 41-35 with 13:28 left.
"From that point on, we were rolling," O'Brien said.
And when Earl Wolff intercepted Brown's deep pass and brought it out to near midfield, Carter-Finley Stadium was rocking. Glennon's 20-yard pass to Creecy on third-and-9 set up Washington's go-ahead touchdown run.
Maryland went three-and-out and punted back to N.C. State with 5:21 left, and the Wolfpack ran about three minutes off the clock — helped by a roughing-the-passer penalty on a third-and-6 that kept the drive going. Glennon's scoring pass to Bryan put N.C. State up by eight with 2:18 remaining.
C.J. Wilson then iced it with a 59-yard interception return for a score with 27 seconds to play.
Brown finished 12 of 23 for 166 yards with a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs and a 24-yard scoring pass to Kevin Dorsey for Maryland, a two-touchdown underdog that hadn't beaten an FBS team since the opener against shorthanded Miami.
"This is the worst feeling in the world," Brown said.Comment on this story
Dexter McDougle returned a fumble 66 yards for a touchdown and A.J. Hendy took back an interception 32 yards for another score for Maryland, which was trying to spoil things for the Wolfpack for the third time in five years. The Terps kept them out of the postseason in 2007, then beat Russell Wilson's final N.C. State team in the 2010 finale to deny it a spot in the ACC championship game.
For most of the day, it seemed all but certain that it would happen again.
McDougle started the scoring when he scooped up James Washington's fumble and had an easy path down the sideline for the TD roughly 6½ minutes in. Hendy made it 28-7 with 8 minutes left in the half when he picked off Glennon's pass and breezed into the end zone.
"Our immaturity showed early in that we tried too hard," O'Brien said.