Williams Romps, But Terps D Not Embarrassed
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- So Boston College running back Andre Williams, who has now officially earned the nickname Andre 2000 (2,073 rushing yards this season), had yet another 200-yard game Saturday at Byrd Stadium, his fifth this season. So Williams busted off 64 yards on the game's first drive and put Terps cornerback Will Likely on the ground with a vicious Bo-Jackson-Tecmo-Bowl stiff arm. So the Eagles' lead packhorse pulled away from the secondary and rumbled for a 72-yard touchdown during the fourth quarter to cut Maryland's lead to 24-20. And so he capped off his 263-yard, two-touchdown day with a backbreaking 36-yard jaunt on third-and-3 that set up Boston College's game-winning 52-yard field goal.
So … given all of that, maybe you think it's rather silly that I'm penning an article about Maryland's defense. And maybe you're thinking it's even crazier that I'm suggesting the Terps contained Williams for all but the aforementioned four runs. Is it even possible, you're thinking, to "contain" a back that rushes for 263 yards?
Maybe not by some definitions (OK, most definitions), but if you watched the game closely, and I mean really watched, perhaps you'll see what I'm talking about. Now, you can't eliminate any of those debilitating forays through the Maryland defense -- and that 6.4 yards per carry BC averaged certainly doesn't look pretty -- but in-between the first drive of the first quarter and the last couple drives of the fourth quarter, Williams was held relatively in check. Despite what the numbers say, it was Maryland's defense that kept it in the game until BC knocked home a last-second field goal to escape Byrd Stadium with a 29-26 victory.
"I thought our guys really played hard and got after it," head coach Randy Edsall said. "Maybe four or five plays I think that they got some big plays, but I thought our guys played really hard. It's just unfortunate we couldn't make a few more plays."
The Terps' defense could be forgiven in that it was without its best tackler and most consistent all-around thumper, linebacker Cole Farrand, who missed the game with a shoulder injury. But even without Farrand, Maryland filled the gaps well, allowed little leaky yardage and wrapped up in the open field.
Linebacker Alex Twine had a season-high 10 tackles, doing his best Farrand impression. Safety Sean Davis, who had an interception, added in nine tackles as he put forth a yeomen's effort in run support. Linebacker Marcus Whitfield added in a half-sack and a fumble recovery, while L.A. Goree chipped in seven tackles as well.
"Our defense played great," quarterback C.J. Brown said. "They knew what they were going up against, but [Boston College's] running back and O-line is second to none. [The offense] had all the opportunities in the world today. We just couldn't capitalize."
Brown suggested it, but here are the raw numbers Williams put up coming into Saturday night's game. Andre 2000 had eight 100-yard games and four 200-yard efforts this year, and the last two weeks he piled up 295 yards an ACC-record 339 yards, respectively. He entered with 1,810 yards, averaging 5.6 per rush and 14 touchdowns. As a whole, Boston College came in averaging an ACC-best 217 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry.
"He's definitely a hard runner and BC is a great team that has run the ball on everybody this year," Whitfield said. "But we just tried to stop the run as best we could, get the tackles for loss and mess up their scheme.
"It's definitely a tough loss. You can't ask anymore from the guys; they played their hearts out. I love my guys; they did their best."
But after the first Boston College drive, where Williams rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown, ripping off that highlight-reel 31-yarder that saw Likely take a tumble (to Likely's credit, he popped right back up) in the process, the Eagles' back managed just 43 yards the rest of the half. In fact, the Maryland defense as a whole held Boston College to just three first-half first downs and 0-for-7 on third down the initial 30 minutes.
"Really we just read our keys. [The first BC drive] was just something that squirted out the back side. It was the first series, everybody had their nerves shook up," Whitfield said. "But after that we just calmed down and played our defense."
They delivered their share of hard hits too.
Late during the second quarter, with the Eagles backed up against their goal line, Williams took an up-the-middle carry, but Davis immediately met him. The sophomore safety lowered the boom, delivering a reverberating thump.
Several possessions before that, late during the first quarter, defensive end Zeke Riser penetrated the backfield and stuffed Williams for a 1-yard loss. Then, a couple drives later, linebacker Matt Robinson chased Williams down from the backside and dropped him behind the line again.
The theme continued during the second half. On Boston College's first third-quarter possession, Williams gained three yards on two carries with Isaac Goins and Davis bringing him down. Later on, with the Eagles inside the Terps' 5-yard line, linebacker Shawn Petty knifed into the backfield on second down to stop Williams for a loss. Two plays later, BC was forced to kick a field goal, allowing the Terps to maintain a 17-13 lead.
Williams finished the third quarter with eight carries for just 35 yards.
"Just in terms of seeing the shifts that [BC] did and getting lined up, we got lined up and our guys played extremely well," Edsall said. "They played extremely hard and did a good job. And like I said, one or two plays we might have overran them a little bit."
Whitfield said defensive coordinator Brian Stewart prepared the defense well during the week leading in. The defensive end said the Terps knew BC was going to run the ball, and Stewart challenged his defense to match Williams' toughness and the Eagles' offensive line's intensity.
"Just really focusing on the run more; just emphasizing the run," Whitfield said. "The power, the counters he had, just really getting after it."
But during the final frame Williams broke loose, dampening the defense's solid effort up to that point. His 72-yard touchdown run that gave Boston College a 24-20 lead seemed to deflate the crowd, while his 36-yarder with scored knotted at 26 was downright demoralizing.
"We were expecting [Williams] to do what [he] had been doing and rush the ball right at us," Whitfield said of the 36-yard run that set up the game-winning field goal. "We didn't expect him to cut it back on that last play, and that's what he did and there was just a gap there."
Terps fans know what happened next. The Eagles ran the clock down and positioned themselves for a 52-yard field goal. Kicker Nate Freese came on and sent his first attempt wide, but Edsall had signaled a timeout right before the snap. Given a second life, Freese took advantage, giving BC the victory and sending Maryland into its final regular-season game still in search of a seventh win.
"I am happy that we fought all the way through the end," Edsall said. "We came up a little bit short and fighting through is exactly what we're going to continue to do. We're going to continue to work and keep getting better. This was a game that we felt we could have had, but we didn't. So what you do is go back to work tomorrow and get better."
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