Maryland football dedicates 24-21 victory at Boston College to injured teammate
Saturday, October 23, 2010; 11:54 PM
CHESTNUT HILL, MASS. - In almost every one of Maryland's 72 offensive huddles Saturday, a pledge was made as a play was called:
"Win this for Pete!"
"This touchdown for Pete!"
"One more first down for Pete!"
With a 24-21 victory over Boston College, the Terrapins (5-2, 2-1 ACC) snapped a 10-game road losing streak and moved within one win of bowl eligibility, a significant step for a team that won two games last season. But as they finally broke through on the road, their thoughts remained focused on an intensive-care unit back home.
That's where redshirt freshman Pete DeSouza began his Saturday after breaking two bones in both legs when his motor scooter collided with a car Thursday night. The season-ending injury to Maryland's starting right tackle triggered the start of an emotional 40-hour period for players and coaches leading up to Saturday's kickoff.
At 2 a.m. Friday morning, James Franklin was at a District hospital next to DeSouza, the offensive coordinator choking up as the player apologized for the injury. Head trainer Wes Robinson texted teamwide updates to players as DeSouza underwent 12 hours of surgery. Surgeons had finished only one leg by the time Maryland landed in Boston at 3 p.m. Friday. Teammates shared thoughts and prayers on his Facebook wall.
Senior center Paul Pinegar had only Friday's walk-through to reacquaint himself with the right tackle position he was to play Saturday. And Danny O'Brien, the quarterback who opened his North Carolina home to DeSouza for part of the offseason, tried to regain his focus after admittedly losing it Friday because of the injury to his close friend.
"At first, all sorts of things are going through your mind," Pinegar said. "But in the end, you really zero in and say, 'Let's get after these guys for Pete.' "
The Terrapins turned a pregame dedicated to DeSouza into one of their best halves of the season in a game that players had called a must win.
They cut down on penalties (two in the first half), a recurring ailment all season. They sustained touchdown-scoring drives of nine and 13 plays and showed improvement on third-down conversions (six of 11 in the half). They capitalized on turnovers, with safety Antwine Perez coming up with a fumble recovery and two interceptions.
In his second career road start, O'Brien threw three touchdown passes and completed 14 of his 27 passes in the first half, using short throws to essentially act as the running game that Boston College was intent on stopping. All three of Maryland's touchdown-scoring drives started in Eagles territory. All signs pointed to a drama-free win dedicated to DeSouza, who had planned to watch the game on a laptop from the hospital.
But as Coach Ralph Friedgen later said, nothing comes easy for this bunch. Entering the fourth quarter in a 24-7 hole, Boston College, one of the nation's most anemic offensive teams, scored on a 10-play, 70-yard drive.
Then the Eagles cut the deficit to three after a fluke play - a tipped pass that set up a 63-yard reception by wide receiver Bobby Swigert - led to running back Montel Harris's second touchdown of the quarter with seven minutes remaining.
"I've been down that road before," said Friedgen, who was having flashbacks of other unpredictable games that turned into inexplicable losses. But instead of seeing panic in a team that he acknowledges remains "fairly young and fragile," he saw more resolve to deliver the Eagles their fifth straight defeat.
Boston College (2-5, 0-4) had two chances to tie the score or win the game in the final minutes. The first ended when cornerback Cameron Chism broke up a pass on fourth and three from the Maryland 41.
The Terrapins had an opportunity to ice the game with less than three minutes to play on fourth and inches from the Boston College 35, but running back Davin Meggett's dive forward came up short.
"I didn't hesitate," Friedgen said when asked about the decision to go for it. "You've got to make it."
Finally, with one more stop to make, Maryland's defense stiffened, as linebacker Adrian Moten and lineman Joe Vellano stuffed Harris six inches shy of a first down on fourth and one from the Boston College 44. Fourth-down stops have become the hallmark for a Maryland defense that has stopped four of five opponents on fourth-down tries in the final three minutes of games this season.
"After the game, everyone's hearts were lifted because we were able to go out and get one for Pete," Pinegar said.
After postgame interviews with reporters, the Terrapins exited Alumni Stadium and boarded a team bus. Franklin said he was awaiting a phone call from DeSouza's mother, who had planned to hand the phone to her son. Franklin planned to pass the phone around the bus, an act players eagerly awaited.
Come Sunday, there is a gesture awaiting DeSouza. As Pinegar said, "We have a game ball that the offensive line is going to deliver to him tomorrow."