COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- It was back to just talking football this week at the regular Tuesday press conference in Gossett Team House.
No more discussion or questions about losing streaks, or trying to get bowl eligible or what happened to the team's edge after the great start or anything like that on the heels of Maryland's 27-24 overtime victory at big, bad Virginia Tech.
Yeah, the Terrapins, now 6-4 overall and 2-4 in the ACC, answered a lot of those questions Saturday in the most positive of fashions – with a resounding victory in their best performance since the 37-0 rout of West Virginia in Week 4.
"It was good to get that monkey off our back and have two games left," said quarterback and catalyst C.J. Brown of the sixth win to become bowl eligible. "It's just a great opportunity this week to add on and get win No. 7."
The Terrapins square off with annual antagonist Boston College (6-4, 3-3), winners of four of the last five meetings between the ACC Atlantic Division rivals. BC and the nation's leading rusher, Andre Williams, roll into town for a 3:30 p.m. showdown at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium.
Williams, who averages 181.0 yards per game and has 1,810 rushing yards this season, will test Maryland's recently rediscovered rushing defense. The Terrapins held Virginia Tech to just 54 yards on the ground Saturday, just the second time an ACC foe had been below 180 yards and just the third time a conference opponent was below 235 yards against Maryland.
"It just felt good to see the defense, as a whole, play a great game," said linebacker Marcus Whitfield, one of 15 seniors playing their final home game this Saturday against Boston College.
Virginia Tech's 254 yards of total offense – including seven sacks of quarterback Logan Thomas – was the fewest yards Maryland had allowed in an ACC game, and just one of many indications the Terrapins were back on track.
Now that defense faces a different challenge – 6-foot, 227-pound Williams, who set a school and ACC record with 339 yards rushing last week against NC State in a 38-21 win, the Eagles' second victory in a row.
"He's a great player," said Whitfield. "He runs downhill. He's a great athlete. It's going to be a challenge.
The Eagles use Williams like a battering ram. He had 42 carries Saturday, and hasn't had less than 24 rushing attempts in the last seven games. Once they get him rolling, senior quarterback Chase Rettig can crank up a deadly efficient play-action passing game. He is completing 63.2 percent of his passes and has 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The Eagles have just 10 turnovers all season.
When the Eagles are feathering their nest this year, it all begins with Williams.
"There's no secret to what we have to do this coming week against Boston College," said Maryland coach Randy Edsall. "That's to stop the run, and stop Andre Williams, who is just an outstanding player. He has very good speed, very powerful, very explosive."
Explosive was back in the Terrapin lexicon last week, too. Brown, obviously the most healthy he had been since before the Florida State game, amassed 257 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, including the game-winner on a three-yard run that memorably sent Randy Edsall running across the field to celebrate with his team.
"It was funny," smiled Brown. "After I scored, I knew (it was good) because I hit the pylon and none of my body parts hit the ground. And I see him running like a goofball, hands in the air, jumping, it was an exciting time. Any time you see a coach run, it's funny."
Brown's running keyed the fun. Taking advantage of Virginia Tech's man-to-man coverage, thus defenders facing away from the line of scrimmage, Brown was green-lighted to run as often as he could. He picked up 122 yards on 23 carries, his biggest rushing day since 122 yards at Connecticut in Week 3.
"I definitely felt a lot healthier than what I had been in the past and I think it showed on the field," Brown said of recent head and "trunk" injuries that have hampered him since ACC play began. "I feel 100 percent. I'm back to normal and ready to go this week."
That's not good news for a Boston College defense that has had their share of issues, too. The Eagles are allowing 27.4 points per game, the third highest total in the conference, and they're last in total defense, yielding 429.9 yards per game.
They've been able to win thanks to solid special teams, Williams and Rettig making plays and taking care of the ball, and big plays on defense, including 29 sacks and 16 turnovers. Those last traits are typical of a Don Brown defense, the coordinator at BC, who Maryland has faced in recent years at Connecticut, as well, where he first went after leaving College Park, Md.
Veteran Terps, like C.J. Brown, who remember Don Brown's aggressive schemes when he was here, know what to expect Saturday -- anything.
"They give so many different looks but they bring all the same pressures we've seen," said C.J. Brown. "We have to be on the same page (on offense). They do a great job of disguising. I just have to make sure I'm communicating what I'm seeing with (the offensive line)."
The Terrapins got a lift at Tech with the return of Andrew Zeller at right guard. Zeller played a ton last year as a freshman, and with him back at right guard, redshirt freshman Michael Dunn could go back to tackle to replace true freshman Moise Larose, thrown into the fray when Mike Madaras left the squad three weeks ago. Sophomore Ryan Doyle, who had a couple of great blocks on big plays at Tech, is now at Madaras' left tackle slot.
"I thought the offensive line did a good job of helping us win and doing the things that we needed to do," said Edsall. "I would expect they would be a little bit better this week. I think all five of those will be out there playing together again this week."
"We've been battling with that problem all year, mixing and matching," said Brown of the line. "Whoever is out there is going to do a great job. I have all the confidence in the world in them."
The offense gets another lift this week with Levern Jacobs back from his head injury. Maryland had just five receivers available last Saturday, and only three who had ever caught a pass in a college game. Look for that BC defense to try and exploit Maryland's youth in the line and among the receivers.
Meanwhile, Maryland coaches made some tweaks on the defensive line, too, where junior Andre Monroe replaced Keith Bowers at end, and turned in one of the top defensive-line performances of the year. Monroe had nine tackles and a career high three sacks, including the big one in overtime that forced a field goal.
"It wasn't a surprise because Andre makes those plays in practice all the time," said Whitfield. "Everyone knew Andre had it in him, and he had a great game, and the defensive line as a whole had a great game."
The Terrapins registered a season-high seven sacks, or more than they had total in the last five games. "The front seven did a great job," said Edsall. "And we're going to need that kind of effort and intensity again."
Terp coaches changed some techniques up front, allowing the linemen to get more aggressive and try to penetrate into the backfield to disrupt the Hokies and make plays. The results were 11 tackles for loss and taking away Tech's ground game.
No one has taken away Boston College's ground game recently. The Eagles have soared to 196-or-more yards rushing in each of the last four games and have been below 100 yards rushing just once this season. Coach Steve Addazio has a typically huge offensive line. Right guard Harris Williams is the smallest starting lineman at 6-3, 298. They must call him "Tiny."
On the Maryland defensive front this week, Bowers has been moved to backup nose tackle behind Darius Kilgo. End Quinton Jefferson, who had two sacks at Tech, is also coming off a great game.
This game may be decided in that battle – the Boston College offensive line against the Terrapin front seven, now intact with linebackers Cole Farrand, L.A. Goree, Matt Robinson and Whitfield all scheduled to start together for just the second time in the last six games.
Whitfield and cornerback Isaac Goins are the only senior defensive starters, and along with transfer grad student defensive end Zeke Riser, the only seniors on the two-deep. On offense, the only senior starters are tight end Dave Stinebaugh, left guard De'Onte Arnett and Brown, who is listed as a senior but has more eligibility remaining after last year's injury-redshirt.
Top reserves tackle Nick Klemm, guard G.T. Harraka and wide receiver Regis Whittington, are also seniors. Also count long-snapper Greg Parcher. Rounding out the seniors are injured cornerback Dexter McDougle, linebacker Bradley Johnson, defensive back Tony Perry, running back Carl Buchholz and wide receiver Tejiri Erhie, a transfer from Frostburg State.
"I think anytime it's Senior Day, it's always a special day for these young men, and really for the program," said Edsall. "But especially for these young men, for the last time to come out of the locker room and come out here and play at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium is very touching and everybody wants to do their part to send their seniors out victorious."
Edsall, always on point, also told the team that stacking up more victories is important, too.
"Six wins doesn't guarantee you anything," he said. "It just makes you eligible (for a bowl), it doesn't guarantee that you're going anywhere. I told that to our team. We're just focused on Boston College, and we've got another game the following week. All that other stuff doesn't mean anything until we've concluded our regular season."
"Every time Senior Day comes around you definitely want to send the seniors out right with a win," said defensive back A.J. Hendy, quickly adding, "Also getting seven wins puts us in better position for a bowl game."
Brown, noting how small the senior class was, already touched on the strong emotions Saturday may evoke for a tight team that has been through a lot the last four or five years: "It means the world, to come in with those guys and the few that are still left, we want to send them out the right way. I know it will definitely be an emotional day for us, and I'm excited to go out there and perform with those guys."
Whitfield doesn't like to focus on that part of the game. He talked about how great practices last week helped turn things around and he wanted more of the same this week. When asked about his last game, though, he finally relented a bit.
"It's starting to set in," he said. "I love playing at Byrd, just that feeling coming out of the tunnel before the game, all the fans out there cheering and your family is there. There really aren't words for it. I'm not really an emotional person but I don't know (how I will react). It's my last game at home so we'll see."
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