CHESTNUT HILL, Mass.— In 10 road trips spanning two years, Maryland had returned to campus without a win. Along the way, the Terps had endured driving rain, injuries, special-teams collapses and a defensive meltdown.
Before its latest road game, Maryland coped with something more profound — a serious motor-scooter accident that left starting right tackle Pete DeSouza hospitalized in intensive care with multiple leg fractures.
With five wins, Maryland is one win away from becoming eligible to play in a bowl game.
It was a game the Terps (5-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) had dedicated to DeSouza — they plan to present him a game ball at his Washington-area hospital — and they were eager to deliver.
"After the game, everybody's hearts were really lifted because we were able to go out and get one for him," said senior Paul Pinegar, who moved from center to tackle to fill DeSouza's spot.
Pinegar had no time to practice at tackle — only time for a walkthrough — because DeSouza's accident occurred Thursday night, and Friday was a travel day. Sophomore Bennett Fulper filled in for Pinegar at center.
Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien, whose three touchdown passes gave the Terps a 17-point lead they almost lost, said "Win it for Pete!" was a constant refrain.
"Throughout the whole game, all four quarters, in the huddle. It was a constant theme," O'Brien said.
Boston College had lost its previous four games and was last in its ACC division. This was nevertheless a significant win for a Maryland team trying to distinguish itself from last season's team that lost its last seven ACC games in a row and almost cost coach Ralph Friedgen his job.
Maryland took a 24-7 lead, then had to desperately hold on.
Montel Harris ran 1 yard to cap a 70-yard, Boston College touchdown drive that cut Maryland's lead to 24-14 in the fourth quarter. The Eagles then made it 24-21 after a bizarre play. From his 31, freshman quarterback Chase Rettig threw deep down the sideline to Ifeanyi Momah. The high pass deflected off his hands and was caught by Bobby Swigert for a 63-yard gain to the 6. A roughing penalty on the Terps took it to the 3, where Harris ran it in with 7:10 remaining.
Friedgen said the Terps showed resolve by not unraveling after the deflected pass.
"We knew it was kind of like a fluke play, one of them things that just happens," said Maryland safety Antwine Perez, who had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in the first half.
On Boston College's next series, Maryland stopped the Eagles on an incomplete pass on fourth and 3 from the Maryland 41. Maryland took over with 4:12 on the clock, but surrendered the ball without scoring.
The Terps then stopped the Eagles on a fourth-and-one run — this time from their 44 with 1:13 left.
That final stop — defensive tackle Joe Vellano and linebacker Adrian Moten were the tacklers— was the latest in a season-long series of fourth-and-short successes for Maryland's defense. The Terps have made fourth-down stops in wins over Navy, Florida International, Duke and now Boston College.
"This was a huge game for us," Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown said. "We needed to break through and find a way to win a football game on the road."
After the game, Terps players seemed relieved and emotionally drained as they were interviewed inside Alumni Stadium. Media questioning focused almost as much on DeSouza's accident as on the game.
"There were some emotions involved prior to the game," Friedgen said.
Maryland won by playing turnover-free football, avoiding costly penalties and converting on 10 of19 third downs.
Maryland knew it might struggle running against a Boston College defense that entered the game first in the ACC in rushing defense. So the Terps employed an efficient offense that relied on short passes to Torrey Smith (nine catches for 37 yards) and others.
On one of his receptions, Smith ÃƒÆ’Ã‚â€šÃƒâ€šÃ‚â€“ playing with a gimpy ankle -- outmaneuvered cornerback Donnie Fletcher in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown reception to give Maryland a 7-0 lead.
"We wanted to use the screens on the perimeter … almost like a run game," O'Brien said.
All three of Maryland's first-half touchdown drives started in Boston College territory. Two of the drives began after Boston College turnovers, and the third after a 28-yard Tony Logan punt return.
"Obviously, three turnovers to zero was a tilting factor in the game," said Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani.
Friedgen called it a "courageous" win by his team.
He and others had spent hours texting DeSouza's family to get updates on his condition. Offensive coordinator James Franklin said he stayed with the player at the hospital until 2:00 in the morning on Friday.
Players planned to pass a cell phone around on the bus trip back from the airport so they could all check in with DeSouza.
"I'm anxious to talk to him," O'Brien said.