Byrd ACC Finale a Heartbreaker for Terps
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The hushed tones in the postgame press conference told the story of Maryland's final ACC home game just as vividly as the on-field celebration told the tale last week at Virginia Tech.
The Terrapins' roller-coaster ride continued with a heartbreaking 29-26 loss at the final gun to Boston College Saturday at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium before 32,147 chilly fans. When BC kicker Nate Freese's 52-yard field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired, it was the Eagles who were rushing the field, running and jumping and hugging as the Terrapins had done a week ago on Virginia Tech's Senior Day.
Now, the tables were turned on Maryland (6-5, 2-5), and all the black-clad Terrapins can hope for is to turn it around one more time, next Saturday at NC State in the regular season finale.
"It was definitely a tough loss," said one of Maryland's 15 seniors, linebacker Marcus Whitfield. "You couldn't ask any more. The guys played their hearts out. I have love for my teammates. Just to see the ball go through (the goal post) is tough. What more can we do?"
The Terrapins will be kicking themselves over this one – squandering an 11-point fourth quarter lead, penalties taking away a touchdown before the half, and an overall solid defensive effort spoiled by a blocked punt and two touchdowns over 70 yards in the fourth quarter.
"The defense played very hard," said Maryland coach Randy Edsall. "A few plays, maybe four or five plays I think, that they got some big plays on, but I thought our guys really played hard, really got after it on defense. It's just unfortunate that we couldn't have made a couple more plays."
The Eagles (7-4, 4-3) got 263 yards on 32 carries by Andre Williams, the national rushing leader but 169 of those yards came on four plays, including a 72-yard dash in the fourth quarter to cut into Maryland's 11-point lead.
"He's a hard runner and BC's a great team, they've rushed the ball on everybody this year," said Whitfield, part of a defense that kept BC out of the end zone on 11 of 12 possessions at one point, except for a score set up by the blocked punt.
The score tied and just 1:37 left, the Eagles were still feeding the 6-0, 227-pound battering ram. Back in the game after the Terrapins had knocked him out the previous series, Williams ran twice for seven yards, and then on third down, busted a draw play up the middle, veered to his left and went 36 yards to the Maryland 38-yard line, only safety Sean Davis' tackle saving a score.
Quarterback Chase Rettig stopped the clock and Myles Willis ran for two yards, the Eagles taking their final timeout with two seconds left and the ball at the Maryland 35. Edsall tried to ice Freese with a timeout as his 52-yard field goal sailed just wide right at the Gossett Field House end of the stadium.
"That's one of those things where you make a decision and you take a timeout," said Edsall. "And he missed the first one, then he made the second one. It's one of those things that just happens. Hindsight is 20-20. Obviously, I shouldn't have taken the timeout, he missed it….You're doing something to put a little more doubt in the guy's head…just didn't work out."
The Terrapins were granted the timeout and then Freese nailed his second attempt, Maryland falling in the final ACC game in Byrd, and the celebration on for the Eagles, who have now won four in a row. Maryland has lost four of the last five and failed to built on the momentum of last week's 27-24 overtime win.
"Last second field goal like that, that's pretty much what we did to Virginia Tech last week," said quarterback C.J. Brown who was limited on the ground but passed for 178 yards and accounted for a passing and a rushing touchdown. "Coach has been calling the timeouts all year (on opposing kickers). You can't knock that. It's part of the game."
After a whacky sequence tied the game in the fourth quarter, Maryland got the ball and Brown hit Albert Reid for 13 yards and a first down to the 35, but linebacker Steven Daniels sacked Brown on the next play and then on third down, heavy pressure forced him to run for just one yard. Nathan Renfro punted 42 yards and the ball rolled dead at the Eagle 20 with 1:37 to play, setting up the final, fateful sequence.
It was one of many missed opportunities the Maryland offense felt they left on the field. "We made some big plays and that put us in the game, and Boston College made big plays," said Reid. "The game went back and forth and they came out on top. I feel like if we had made a few more plays and got a few more stops, we could have won…We left a few plays on the field because of penalties."
The Terrapins cleaned up their act (just one second half penalty) for the most part but they did have a costly turnover, freshman running back Jacques Veii fumbling inside the 10-yard line when the Terrapins seemed headed for a big score midway through the fourth quarter.
Boston College moved the ball out of danger despite Williams getting hurt on a tackle by Alex Twine and Darius Kilgo. On a third-and-four, Rettig, who connected on just six of 14 passes for 120 yards, hit Dan Crimmins on a crossing route for 11 yards to the 25. Two plays later, wide receiver Alex Amidon got behind the Maryland defense, hauled in Rettig's pass and chugged in for a 74-yard touchdown at 5:02.
Edsall said cornerback Will Likely and safety Anthony Nixon collided on the play, Likely knocked down and completely out of the play. Amidon was all alone and dashed in for a game-changing score late in the proceedings.
Now leading 26-24, the Eagles lined up for the extra point – and Freese hadn't missed a field goal or PAT all year – but Whitfield got a big mitt up and blocked the kick. The ball fell into the arms of Nixon in the end zone, and after hesitating, Nixon took off to the left, found an opening down the right sideline and went the distance for a two-point defensive score on the conversion to tie the game.
The Terps had just gone up by 11 points in the fourth quarter when Boston College got the ball back with 10:45 left. The Eagles, who wrapped up bowl eligibility a week ago just like Maryland, didn't panic. Instead, they gave the ball to Williams. He bounced to the right, broke one tackle and rumbled 72 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-20 at 10:33, undoing a lot of good work the Maryland defense had done on the big running back.
But the Terrapins seemed to get right back off the mat. Will Likely shot up the middle with the kickoff and went 50 yards right to the midfield stripe. Brown hit Jacobs for 13 yards, and on a fourth-and-four, Brown stood in against the blitz and found senior Dave Steinbaugh for 20 yards to the 11-yard line.
Steinbaugh, playing in his final home game, had only caught one pass for six yards the last two game.
But on the next play, Veii spun for four yards and was stood up and stripped, Boston College's Dominic Appiah recovering at the eight-yard line, setting up Amidon's big score.
"We just have to come strong next week, practice hard all week," said Reid. "I know the guys are going to come out pumped up this week, knowing we came off a tough loss."
Brandon Ross led a modest Maryland running attack with 44 yards on 11 carries. Brown had just 22 yards on 12 attempts, his numbers hurt by four BC sacks out of former Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown's blitzing defense. C.J. Brown completed 19 of 31 passes for 178 yards.
Levern Jacobs, back in the lineup after being cleared from his head injury, had seven catches for 44 yards, and Nigel King, five for 43. Amba Etta-Tawo had four grabs for 57 yards, including a score.
Terps Take Charge
After an exchange of third quarter punts, the Eagles offense shifted back into gear. Boston College marched 73 yards in 14 plays but had to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Freese at 1:09 to cut Maryland's lead to 17-13.
Williams had six carries for 31 yards, including a 23-yard run to the 3-yard line. Williams ran twice from there, smashing to the one as L.A. Goree tripped him. On second down, Sean Petty broke through and tackled him for a yard loss. On third down, Matt Robinson and Davis knocked Rettig out of bounds at the two for no gain.
On the ensuing possession, the Terrapins got a first down, Brown hitting Jacobs for eight yards, and then again for 11. But a blitz on a third down ended the march, Brian Mihalik sacked Brown to force a punt. Nathan Renfro's short punt into the wind was muffed by Bryce Jones, and hustling Abner Logan recovered at the BC 33.
A pass interference penalty got a first down at the 19, and then Brown ran for 11 yards. The running game hadn't produced much but the Terrapins kept pounding. Reid got three yards to the five, Veii ran wide for two, and then on third down, on a zone read, Brown ran through a big hole up the middle and dove in for a three-yard score at 10: 52 to make it 24-13. The Terps finished with just 100 yards on 34 rushes.
The Terrapins had started the second half strong, driving 70 yards in eight plays to take a 17-10 lead at 11:18, when Brown hit Etta-Tawo on a 33-yard post pattern. Likely started the Terps off with a 27-yard kickoff return and Ross got off a 19-yard run up the gut. Maryland went for it on a fourth-and-one at the 34-yard line, Ross going up the middle and getting it by inches. Two plays later, Brown found Etta-Tawo for his second career score and the young receiver was so excited that he got flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for spinning the ball in the end zone.
Edsall gave him a rap on the helmet and let him hear about it when the Terrapins had to kick off from their own 20-yard line. But Maryland had great coverage on the kick and held the Eagles at the 30.
Maryland stuffed Williams for three yards on two carries, and Amidon dropped a third-down screen pass, as the Terrapin defense continued to control the action at this point.
Sloppy End of Half Costly
Uncharacteristically Maryland had four penalties for 29 yards in the first half, and they prevented the Terrapins from taking a lead to the locker room. Instead, the game was tied 10-10. The two teams combined for just 189 yards at the half, 100 by Maryland. The squads were a combined 1-of-14 on third down, Maryland notching the only conversion.
Boston College finished with 374 total yards and was five of 14 on third down. Maryland had 278 yards but was just two of 13 on third down.
"We keep shooting ourselves in the foot," said Brown. "We have to be able to put teams away."
The Terrapins seemed poised to break the tie midway through the second quarter but they self-destructed. Brown had hit King for nine yards to convert a third down, and then Ross went 11 yards up the middle. Brown found King for 10 yards and then Jacobs for 12 to the 26-yard line. A completion inside the 20 was called back by an ineligible receiver downfield penalty, and then it snowballed on Maryland, which came into the contest the second least penalized team in the conference.
A 31-yard Brown-to-King touchdown was called back by pass interference on King, then three plays later, Brown was whistled for an illegal forward pass on a play where he scrambled and hit Jacobs for 33 yards to the one-yard line.
Ultimately, the Terrapins had to punt into the wind, and Renfro mishit the ball to record an 8-yard punt to the 29-yard line.
Three plays later, Davis intercepted Rettig, the Terps getting the ball back at midfield. But the misplays continued, Ross dropping a Brown pass and then a Maryland false start. Kenneth Goins, Jr., ran for 10 yards but Brown's third down slant pass to King was high and incomplete.
A.J. Hendy downed Renfro's 44-yard punt at the two, and Maryland forced another BC punt, getting the ball back at the 47. Again, though, the Terrapins couldn't take advantage. A blitzing linebacker, Kevin Pierre-Louis, nailed Brown for a nine-yard sack.
Big Plays Start Scoring
In what was settling into a defensive duel by the end of the first quarter, the Terrapins came up with the first big play when linebacker Whitfield recovered a Rettig fumble at the one-yard line. Fielding a bad snap, Whitfield sackd the quarterback and came up with the ball.
On the next play, Reid pounded into the end zone behind the left side of the line to make it 10-3 at 1:49.
The Terrapins returned the favor early in the second quarter, Manuel Asprilla busting through to block Renfro's punt on what Edsall called a "miscommunication." Matt Milano recovered the ball at the six-yard line for the Eagles, and one play later, Williams roared around left end into the end zone untouched, tying the score at 12:30.
The Eagles had gone 70 yards in seven plays on the opening possession to net a Freese field goal from 22 yards to go on top 3-0 at 11:10. Williams did the heavy lifting, with a 31-yard run on the second play. Then he went 30 yards on the next play. The Terps toughened in the red zone, though, and on third down, Alex Twine and Goree corralled Williams for a loss after Nixon forced the play back inside.
Twine was brilliant with 10 tackles. Despite his shoulder injury, he stepped in for leading tackler Cole Farrand, who was out with a shoulder injury.
Long-snapper Greg Parcher (abdomen injury) also missed the game and the receiving corps was further depleted when Ricardo Young (head) and DeAndre Lane (hamstring) couldn't go. Behind Maryland's first three receivers, top reserves Malcolm Culmer, Daniel Adams and Regis Whittington have combined for five career catches, all by Culmer.
Maryland went three and out on its first possession, and Renfro uncorked a 60-yard punt with the wind at his back for a touchback. BC also punted after three plays, and the Terps were able to move 27 yards to cash in with a Brad Craddock 43-yard field goal at 5:54 to tie the score.
Brown, who was high on some throws early, hit Etta-Tawo for 12, and King for 10. Ross slipped in the backfield on a third-and-one to set up the field goal attempt.
NOTES: Brown said that on King's pass interference to call back a score, the receiver said he and the defensive back got their legs tangled and King had his hands up to keep his balance but did not push off….Whitfield's PAT block was the first for Maryland since A.J. Francis swatted one against Georgia Tech Nov. 3, 2012….Brown has nine touchdown passes this year and 16 in his career, tied for 17th in school history.
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