CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Caleb Rowe’s first career start was alternately bumpy and slick, with one successful comeback and another rally cut short by an unwise decision.
To use the freshman’s own phrase, Saturday was exhilarating for Maryland’s latest starting quarterback.
And more to the point, he is eager to try again.
“I’ve learned so much,” Rowe said after a 20-17 loss to Boston College at Alumni Stadium. “Each interception really teaches you a lot. We’ll go back and watch film and learn a lot more, so I’m looking forward to that.”
There is much for Rowe to absorb after completing 23 of 42 passes for 240 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
One pick zapped a potential scoring drive late in the first half. Another set up a Boston College field goal. And the third sealed the victory for the Eagles in the final minute.
Those moments, in some form or fashion, were to be expected. Rowe is effectively Maryland’s fourth quarterback of the year, following season-ending injuries to C.J. Brown (right knee), Perry Hills (left knee) and Devin Burns (left foot).
Nonetheless, the miscues hardly frazzled Rowe. He threw a pair of touchdowns in the second half, leading Maryland (4-4, 2-2 ACC) to 17 straight points to erase a 13-0 deficit. The Landrum, S.C., native is not lacking for arm strength, and repeatedly found fellow freshman Stefon Diggs, who hauled in a career-best 11 receptions.
“Given the situation, he came up here and did a pretty good job,” coach Randy Edsall said. “There’s a couple plays he’d love to have back; I know he would. But he’s going to be a good quarterback.”
It was a fairly promising start for Rowe, except for the outcome, and it came a week after Rowe debuted in the final minute of a loss to N.C. State and quickly moved the Terps into range for a potential game-winning field goal that Brad Craddock ultimately missed.
With no scholarship quarterbacks remaining on the roster (left-handed linebacker Shawn Petty is the next man up if needed), Rowe will enjoy the freedom over the next month to learn on the job.
Lesson No. 1: He’s going to have all the work he can handle in practice.
“It was fun actually being the guy,” Rowe said. “It was a little more — actually a lot more — reps in practice. I’m a little more sore than usual.”
He took his share of hits from the Eagles, though he was sacked just once. He scrambled away on several other occasions, occasionally sliding head first and consistently popping back up without any sign of lasting trouble.
That’s no small thing for these Terps, who now must contend with an arduous portion of their back-loaded schedule. Maryland’s final three opponents (Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina) are a combined 21-5, and any possibility of a bowl bid requires beating at least one of them.
Clearly, falling to the Eagles (2-6, 1-4) was a damaging setback for the Terps.
Rowe, however, demonstrated enough moxie to provide some hope to teammates the season was not lost.
“Every quarterback on our [roster] I feel comfortable with out there,” defensive lineman A.J. Francis said. “Our offense, it doesn’t really matter who’s out there. Caleb played a hell of a game today.
“He made some mistakes, and it was his first start. I made some mistakes and it was my 31st. We all have room to improve, and he’s going to learn from his mistakes and play better in the future. We’re going to need him to.”
Maryland will need him to be sharp when disappointing Georgia Tech (3-5, 2-3) visits Byrd Stadium on Saturday.
For his part, Rowe can barely wait for his latest opportunity.
“I’m definitely ready to get better,” Rowe said. “As a football player, you can’t ever stop getting better. I’m ready to learn from these mistakes and continue with the season.”
NOTE:Edsall said Sunday freshman walk-on Brendan Magistro will handle field goal attempts from inside roughly 35 to 40 yards this week, while Craddock will be used for attempts beyond that distance.
Craddock missed a 35-yard field goal Saturday and is 8 for 14 on the season. Magistro debuted against the Eagles and made a 28-yard field goal and two extra points.