At halftime, it was difficult to imagine Maryland scoring 31 points in an entire season. For 30 minutes, the passing game looked primitive and Maryland actually recorded more penalties than first downs while taking a 10-7 lead.
But after Boston College had pulled within four points late in the third quarter, Maryland put together two overpowering drives that led the Terrapins to a 31-13 victory before 30,210 at Sullivan Stadium.
"We were doing a million things in the first half that were killing us," Maryland Coach Bobby Ross said. "But we came back in the second half, and I think we've gotten it out of our systems. I feel better now, and I think the team feels better."
Ross admitted for the first time that the pressure of being ranked so highly in preseason polls -- two of which had the Terrapins No. 1 -- was getting to his players. Quarterback Stan Gelbaugh even said, "We wanted this thing so badly, we were just tight. But I think we got over it."
Maryland's second-half scoring ended a nine-game home winning streak for Boston College (1-1), which hadn't lost in Sullivan Stadium -- an alternative to its on-campus field -- in 10 years. But the afternoon ended with Eagles fans unforgivingly booing quarterback Shawn Halloran for not being Doug Flutie.
Maryland took a 17-7 lead midway through the third quarter on Alvin Blount's four-yard touchdown run. After Ken Kanzer missed an extra point and a 30-yard field goal that could have moved Boston College ahead, Maryland mounted an 11-play drive that ended with Gelbaugh passing 10 yards to Eric Holder for a touchdown that made it 24-13 five minutes into the fourth quarter.
On Boston College's next play from scrimmage, one of Maryland's five quarterback sacks produced a fumble recovery by Scott Tye. It took only one play for Rick Badanjek to score on a one-yard run -- his 40th career touchdown -- to make it 31-13.
Badanjek wasn't bad for someone who was supposed to miss the game because of a bruised thigh. He didn't start, but rushed a game-high 89 yards on 15 carries. "They said last Sunday Rick would be out for three weeks, but I said no way. I knew he'd be there," said senior tackle Tony Edwards.
Badanjek and Tommy Neal (76 yards on 15 carries) provided the bulk of Maryland's 205 rushing yards, running behind a line that dominated Boston College's defense.
Mike Ruth, the Eagles' all-America guard, was scarcely a factor with only five tackles. Every Maryland lineman had a hand in blocking Ruth, but rookie center David Amend carried out his assignment with almost amazing efficiency.
Amend said he did "an average" job of blocking Ruth. But Edwards' assessment might have been closer to the truth. "David Amend played, probably, the football game of his life," Edwards said. "He did today what people have been trying to do for three years."
For two quarters it looked as if Maryland (1-1) was about to start with an 0-2 record for the third time in Ross' four years. The Terrapins committed eight penalties, two on special teams, which had the coaches grabbing-mad on the sideline.
The passing game started off even worse than it did in last week's 20-18 loss to Penn State. Today, Gelbaugh completed only nine of 25 passes for 104 yards, Maryland's least productive passing game in four years. Receivers fell down, Gelbaugh blew screen passes, other passes were dropped.
The offense had four penalties in one series and could produce only 10 first-half points despite having superb field position on seven of eight possessions. An earlier fumble recovery by Tye, another by safety Al Covington and an interception by Chuck Faucette kept Maryland in the Eagles' territory.
But the offense scored only one touchdown.
"We got the ball in some great situations," Badanjek said, "but we couldn't get it in for some reason. I don't know what was going on. The defense really saved us."
So did Boston College's place kicking, which was as much a problem to the Eagles as the pulled hamstring that sidelined their best offensive player, tailback Troy Stradford.
When Halloran threw 33 yards for a touchdown to flanker Kelvin Martin to make it 17-13, Boston College was going. "You better believe they had the momentum," Tye said. Badanjek said he kept thinking, "Man, I don't want to see this."
But Kanzer missed the extra point, then a 30-yard field goal. Momentum, Maryland.
The offense, an emotional bunch to begin with, finally did what it is used to doing. Gelbaugh, seeing his linemen moving defenders several yards back, kept calling audible plays at the line of scrimmage.
Badanjek carried five times for 42 yards in that series. "We didn't plan to just run the ball. But we got into a good mix -- countering, running inside and outside," Ross explained.
Gelbaugh's throwing might not have been great, but his thinking was. "When you're picking up seven and eight yards per carry, why throw?" he asked. "Why take any foolish chances?"
Maryland's offense finally looked like it did when the Terrapins averaged 499 yards and 39 points the final seven games of last season.
"It's no question that they became the real Maryland offense on those two drives," Tye said. "I was standing there watching them and I thought, 'This is the offense I practice against every day.' I don't think you're going to see the offense having the sputters anymore."
There was one little sputter on that drive. Gelbaugh threw a pass that hit Holder on the hip, because Holder, standing on the goal line, didn't expect it. But Maryland went right back to the same play on third and goal, and Gelbaugh hit Holder in stride for the touchdown.
Once Maryland had taken the 24-13 lead, the defense knew that Boston College -- without Stradford -- had to pass. Halloran, who had completed 15 of 27 passes at one point, finished by completing only three of his final 14.
Every time he dropped back, Tye, Bruce Mesner, Neal Sampson or Ted Chapman -- or any combination of the above -- was in his face.
When Tye chased Halloran back to the two, he expected to get the sack. "But somebody else (Mesner and Bob Arnold) had already smashed him," Tye said. All that was left for Tye was to pick up the fumbled ball.
Nothing about Maryland's victory was pretty. "Winning pretty or winning ugly, it's all the same," Gelbaugh said.
Even so, Ross said he was surprised the offense made so many mistakes early. "They were almost trying too hard," he said. "We had to get it out of our systems and get on with it . . . That first touchdown drive in the third quarter, I sensed it right them. That was the real Maryland team."
Boston College Coach Jack Bicknell was left to wonder whether this was the real Eagles team. "I'm a little concerned we couldn't control the ball more on offense to give our defense more of a chance to rest," he said.
But with so many turnovers and so little fourth-quarter success, the Eagles' defense could barely sit. Which is just the way Maryland's offense likes it.