CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — It was the perfect situation for another patented close-out by this Maryland defense, another opportunity for a big-time sack or a huge pass breakup on the outside. Boston College faced third and 10 from its 15-yard line late in Saturday’s game. Cornerback Jeremiah Johnson blanketed receiver Alex Amidon on first down. Defensive lineman A.J. Francis tipped a swing pass at the line of scrimmage, nearly coming up with an interception on second down. The Eagles were 1 for 11 on third downs up until that point. This was Maryland’s time.
The Terps sent four to rush quarterback Chase Rettig. Linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield played spy, then came on a delayed blitz. Bobby Swigert ran a short crossing pattern, and Maryland jumped the coverage. That left tight end Chris Pantale open over the middle, dashing in front of the safeties, for a 13-yard gain.
It was the beginning of the second game-winning drive allowed by Maryland in as many weeks. Rettig was 6 of 10 for 77 yards in the second half up until that point. On the game-winning 85-yard drive, Rettig was 8 of 12 for 92 yards (he took a seven-yard loss in Terps territory, hence the statisical oddity).
“Just didn’t get off the field,” Francis said. “We had a bunch of opportunities to end the game, and we didn’t. Two weeks in a row we could have won the game for our team, and we let our team down. We have to play better on defense. On the last drive we didn’t.”
Maryland battered Rettig all afternoon, finishing with four sacks and plenty more hurries. But Boston College went into max-protection mode when it took over with 4:45 left following a stalled Terps drive and a 27-yard Nathan Renfro punt. Joe Vellano got pressure after Pantale’s reception, swimming through two linemen, forcing Rettig to throw the ball away. On second down, the Terps again sent four, and Rettig hooked up with Amidon for 12 yards.
“I thought we were getting up front, then some routes over the middle, but my back was to them so I didn’t really get to see all that,” Vellano said. “Up front, they were holding a lot of guys, max protecting. We came close a couple times and stopped them a couple times, but they were converting on some over the middle stuff.”
“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 why we lost,” Francis said. “We were in his face while he was throwing, but we weren’t hitting him. Personally, I feel like we did a good job all the way until the last drive.”
Pressure from Vellano again set up second and 10, this time from the Boston College 40-yard line, but Amidon lined up by the far sideline and beat Kenneth Tate in zone coverage across the middle. Hartsfield put a spin move on another delayed blitz, almost getting the sack as the Eagles band began playing “The Final Countdown.”
Pantale picked up 11 yards before Rettig got flushed out of the pocket and recovered his own fumble for a seven-yard loss. After a timeout, Rettig hooked up with Amidon again for an eight-yard gain on play-action. Then, on third and nine, the junior double-clutched and absorbed a vicious hit from linebacker Darin Drakeford, but not before hitting Amidon over the middle for 17 yards.
“We had some pressure in there. We had one that opened wide open, and Drake was just a hair second late getting there,” Coach Randy Edsall said. ”Again, some things there, with the pressure, we were getting good pressure. Even if we brought five, sometimes we still didn’t get there. We didn’t need to make one play, and we were just unable to do it.”
After threading the needle, again over the middle, to Swigert on first down, both Johnson and Isaac Goins bit on Amidon’s inside drag route, leaving Jonathan Coleman wide open for a 14-yard touchdown that ultimately gave Boston College its first ACC win of the season.
“Our defense plays great the whole game, really kept us in the game, until we got going offensively … then we blew a coverage there at the end, which was unfortunate,” Edsall said. “These kids are competitors. They’re down 13-0 and things weren’t going right, they could have packed it in. They didn’t do that. That’s the hard part for me, because I want more for them, because of what we’re asking them to do and what they’re giving us. I don’t know. Is this the growing pains you’re going through with young guys? I don’t know. We’re growing, but you want to grow with having these guys come out on top.”