COLLEGE PARK — This wasn't at all how Maryland had hoped and imagined its final home game in the Atlantic Coast Conference would end: with the opposing team rushing onto the field to celebrate a last-play victory and the dazed Terps trying to grasp what had just unfolded.
In a game of jarring twists and turns, Boston College kicker Nate Freese converted a 52-yard field goal on the game's final play to lift the Eagles to a 29-26 victory on a frigid night at Byrd Stadium.
Freese's game-winner came on a second chance. His intitial try was wide left. But Maryland (6-5, 2-5 ACC) had called timeout just before the attempt, and the senior delivered the second time.
Terps coach Randy Edsall has made a habit of calling timeouts before opponents' most critical field-goal attempts. Freese has converted all 17 of his attempts this season, including one from beyond 50 yards.
After the kicker hooked the initial attempt, “I said to myself, ‘He's going to get this one.' He's a real confident guy,” said Boston College coach Steve Addazio.
Said Edsall: “It's one of those things that just happens. Hindsight's 20-20.”
As Boston College players leaped up and down, the Terps walked slowly into the locker room and tried to digest losing an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead.
“Coach [Edsall] has been calling the timeouts all year,” Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown said of the final play. “You can't knock that. That's his decision. It's part of the game.”
The game featured so many bizarre plays — including a blocked extra point returned the length of the field by Maryland's Anthony Nixon for two game-tying points — that the exploits of Boston College running back Andre Williams were nearly overshadowed.
Williams, the nation's leading rusher, carried 32 times for 263 yards and eclipsed 2,000 yards for the season. He had rushed for a school-record 339 yards a week earlier.
For multiple reasons, this was among Maryland's most heart-wrenching losses of recent seasons. It was the final home game for 16 seniors who were honored before the game. It was a game in which the Terps, who upset Virginia Tech in overtime last week to become bowl-eligible, believed they had seized momentum.
“Last-second field goal like that? It's pretty much what we did to beat Tech last week,” said Brown, a fifth-year senior who is eligible to return next season. “This one's sour.”
The announced crowd of 32,147 — the smallest of the season at Byrd Stadium — saw a game featuring big plays, plenty of mistakes and a nod to the past. The Maryland marching band spelled out “ACC” on the field at halftime, and the school produced a commemorative poster marking its 61 years in the league. Maryland, which leaves for the Big Ten Conference next season, was a founding member of the ACC 61 years ago.
Maryland had taken a 24-13 lead in the fourth quarter after a Boston College mistake. Maryland's Abner Logan recovered Bryce Jones' muffed punt return on the Boston College 33. Six plays later, Brown kept the ball on a 3-yard scoring run.
But Williams scored from 72 yards out on Boston College's next possession to pull the Eagles to within 24-20 with 10:33 left in the game.
Williams, who had limped from the game earlier, has 74 carries in the past two weeks. “I was worried about him,” Addazio said. “I'm still worried about him. He's a competitor, but I know he's pretty banged up.”
Leading 24-20, Maryland drove to the Boston College 8. But running back Jacquille Veii was stripped of the ball, and his fumble was recovered by Eagles linebacker Steven Daniels midway through the fourth quarter.
It was one of Maryland's most costly turnovers of the season. “We keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” Brown said. “We've got to be able to put people away.”
Boston College receiver Alex Amidon caught a 74-yard touchdown pass on the next possession to put the Eagles up 26-24. Maryland cornerback Will Likely fell down in coverage on the play.
“Will and Anthony Nixon collided and Will lost his balance, and that's what happened,” Edsall said.
Freese's extra-point try was blocked and scooped up in the end zone by Nixon, who returned the live ball for two points and a 26-26 tie.
Just like that, the momentum had swung back to the Terps, who celebrated as if they — not the Eagles — had just scored a touchdown.
“I've got to do a better job of making sure to cover that blocked extra point,” Addazio said. “Everybody just kind of stood around and watched it.”
With the score still tied at 26, Boston College (7-4, 4-3) got the ball back late, and moved to its 27 with 44 seconds left. Facing third-and-3, Maryland called a timeout.
“What I tried to do there was try to take a timeout [after] second down, because I saw it was going to be third-and-, and then if we could have stopped them on third-and-, I was going to go for a blocked punt,” Edsall said.
He never got the chance. Williams ran for 36 yards, moving the Eagles to the Terps' 37.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun