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December 6, 2011
Fifth-year senior tight end George Bryan had a sense that NC State had a comeback in them after redshirt junior receiver Tobais Palmer caught a six-yard touchdown pass with 5:57 left in the third quarter to cut Maryland's lead to 41-21.
Bryan appreciated how Palmer handled the score. Palmer simply tossed the ball to the referee and clapped a couple of times as he headed straight to the sideline.
"Everybody was basically like, 'It's time to go to work,'" Bryan noted. "'We just scored a quick score, we can do it. No celebrations, the job's not done.' That's to me when the mindset kind of changed as a team realized we can come back and do this."
The Pack would score five touchdowns in the fourth quarter for a 56-41 win, and their reward is a bowl game in Charlotte. State faces Louisville Dec. 27 in the Belk Bowl. Bryan said reaching a bowl game was more excitement than relief.
"It's a great honor to have my last college football game in my home state of North Carolina," Bryan admitted. "I know there's going to be a lot of people there and they'll be excited.
"I always knew that this team was good and this team could play good. It was just a matter of which team was going to show up and which team was going to be ready to play. We started off slow. We had some ups and downs in the season, but we finished strong, and that's how you always want to do it."
The team's up and down season kind of mirrored the year Bryan had himself. He returned for his senior season despite the fact that some projected to him to be an NFL Draft pick if he left last year.
Working with a new quarterback in redshirt junior Mike Glennon, Bryan struggled early. The two-time reigning first-team All-ACC tight end had just 10 catches for 113 yards and two scores in State's first seven games, including zero receptions in the season opener versus Liberty Sept. 2 and the 28-14 win at Virginia Oct. 22.
"It was frustrating at the beginning, but I give a lot of credit to defenses that I went against," Bryan stated. "They figured me out, I guess you could say. I had to go back and work and throw some new things in there that helped me out at the end of the year."
Bryan did finish strong. He caught 20 passes for 189 yards and two scores in the last five games. He saved his best for last, catching eight passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in the win over Maryland.
His late-season push earned Bryan a spot on the second-team All-ACC squad.
"I was pleasantly surprised to be honest with you," Bryan admitted. "I'll take it and appreciate it."