CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. | Maryland has gone through more quarterbacks than it any team could expect this season.
It’s had its share of close losses as well.
The latest unfolded Saturday at Alumni Stadium as first-time starting quarterback Caleb Rowe was intercepted in the final minute as Boston College escaped with a comeback 20-17 victory.
“It’s fun having the ball in your hands to win the game, but unfortunately today wasn’t the day,” Rowe said.
Rowe threw for 240 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions for the Terps (4-4, 2-2 ACC) a week after nearly leading Maryland to a comeback victory against N.C. State. Rowe got the nod after season-ending injuries to Perry Hills (anterior cruciate ligament tear) and Devin Burns (Lisfranc) last week.
It was nearly a stirring starting debut. Instead, Maryland absorbed a crushing loss to the struggling Eagles (2-6, 1-4) and face a tough climb next month toward bowl eligibility.
“It’s kind of like acupuncture gone wrong —- hitting you in the wrong spots and then the people not doing their studying and sticking the needle in the wrong hole,” tailback Wes Brown said. “Points just need to be hit. We just have to go through practice and take that and teach them how to hit the right acupuncture points.”
To be sure, the Terps have found themselves in some painful end-game situations already this season.
There was an empty drive at the end of last month’s 24-21 loss to Connecticut. Maryland also missed a 33-yard field goal against N.C. State after Rowe’s efficient work in the two-minute drill to seal a 20-18 loss.
The Terps might rue this loss even more than those.
Maryland harassed Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig for much of the day, sacking him four times and frequently forcing him to hurry a pass or merely throw it away. Yet on the Eagles’ go-ahead march in closing minutes, Rettig found time to operate.
Twice he converted on third down. Four times he found reliable possession receiver Alex Amidon. And six times —- including a 14-yard pass to Johnathan Coleman that exploited a blown coverage —- he picked up double-digit yardage against the otherwise stingy Terps.
“We got a lot of pressure on him early but we couldn’t get the pressure on him when we needed to win the game, and that’s the reason we lost,” defensive lineman A.J. Francis said.
Of course, the defense was again the reason Maryland had a chance to win in the first place.
The Terps had special teams foibles, from Spiffy Evans 27-yard punt return to set up Boston College’s first touchdown to a missed Brad Craddock field goal that led coach Randy Edsall to switch to freshman walk-on Brendan Magistro.
The offense sputtered in the first half as well. Rowe started out with some crisp throws, but grew increasingly shaky as the first half progressed. Boston College scored the first 13 points, including a field goal shortly after a Rowe interception.
But Rowe eventually crafted a long touchdown drive capped with a 1-yard fade to Nigel King in the end zone. Later, he found Stefon Diggs near midfield for a 66-yard touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter.
There wasn’t a second comeback in him. A player after Boston College took the lead, Spenser Rositano intercepted Rowe to seal the Eagles’ victory.
“There’s a couple plays he’d love to have back, I know he would,” Edsall said. “But he’s going to be a good quarterback.”
The trouble is, Maryland can’t really wait if it is to make something of this season.
As usual, the Terps were feisty. As usual, the Terps were resilient.
But even against last-place Boston College, a plethora of intangibles could only accomplish so much with the youthful Terps interspersing so much ill-timed play, however predictable and understandable it might be.
“I feel for the kids, I really do; I feel for them,” Edsall said. “I want them to win so bad because they’re doing all the things we’re asking them to do … What we have to do is get them to play a little bit smarter and when we get in some of these situations, to believe even more in themselves. That is what so frustrating and disheartening for me.”
—- Patrick Stevens