Caleb Rowe hangs tough, but Terps lose at Boston College, 20-17

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Caleb Rowe made a point of scrambling to his feet quickly. After his Maryland team lost two quarterbacks a week ago, the new starter was intent on showing Boston College that he planned on hanging around after the hardest hits and not becoming yet another casualty.

Rowe not only remained healthy, he led three scoring drives in the second half. But — for the second week in row — Maryland's defense sagged at the end, permitting Boston College to rally in the final minute for a 20-17 win that dropped the Terps back to .500 in Atlantic Coast Conference play with the toughest part of the schedule ahead.

It was not an ending anybody could have anticipated. There was Rowe, a freshman making his first career start, leading the Terps back from a 13-0 deficit to take a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, only to see Maryland's defense — ranked 11th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in yardage allowed — give the lead right back.

Trailing 17-13, Boston College, which had lost five games in a row, took the ball on its 15-yard line with 4:45 left after a Maryland punt. Quarterback Chase Rettig led the Eagles on a 13-play drive, ending when he found a wide-open Johnathan Coleman on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 52 seconds remaining.

"We blew a coverage there at the end, which was unfortunate," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "That is what is so frustrating and disheartening for me — we're not getting those wins for these kids in terms of the effort that we are getting from them.'

The drive came a week after the Terps (4-4, 2-2 ACC) lost a late lead to North Carolina State.

"We had a bunch of opportunities to end the game and we didn't," said Maryland defensive lineman A.J. Francis, who helped hold the Eagles to just eight yards rushing. "That's two weeks in a row we could have won the game for our team and we let our team down."

Rettig was 8-for-12 on the final drive and completed his last six passes.

"They never did the same protection pretty much back- to-back," Francis said. "They would always change it up, which kind of makes you uncomfortable because you never know who is going to be blocking you."

Boston College sealed the win when Rowe's final pass was intercepted by defensive back Spenser Rositano with 39 seconds left.

"Nothing on Caleb — he did a great job," said freshman receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught a career-high 11 passes for 152 yards. "I should have made the catch."

Maryland remained two wins shy of becoming bowl-eligible with four games remaining. Two of those games are against top ACC teams Florida State and Clemson.

Rowe was hardly perfect — he threw three interceptions. But he completed 23 of 42 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns.

Maryland came back after trailing 13-0 in the third quarter against a Boston College defense that had given up an average of 43.5 points in its four previous ACC games.

Rowe's first career touchdown pass came when he found Nigel King in the back of the end zone to complete a 13-play drive and cut the margin to 13-7 with 6:26 left in the third quarter.

With the Terps trailing 13-10, Rowe stepped up in the pocket and found Diggs over the middle. The receiver cut to his left and ran into the end zone to complete a 66-yard play and give the Terps their first lead of the day with 8:47 left in the game.

The extra point was kicked by freshman Brendan Magistro, who entered the game after Brad Craddock missed a 35-yard attempt. Last week, Craddock missed a 33-yarder that could have been the game winner.

Rowe, who looks even younger than his 19 years, became the starter after Perry Hills (torn anterior cruciate ligament) and Devin Burns (Lisfranc injury in foot) were injured in last week's game and lost for the season.

Saturday's pregame warm-ups featured an unusual sight — a linebacker wearing No. 31 and a tight end wearing No. 87 taking practice snaps at quarterback in the end zone. But that's where injuries have left Maryland — with Shawn Petty and Brian McMahon as emergency backups.

Edsall has often said he doesn't ask quarterbacks to play conservatively to avoid injuries. But with no true quarterbacks left, Rowe did not run by design.

There was a "gasp" moment for the Terps in the second quarter when Rowe was slammed from the blind side and jolted by linebacker Tim Joy on a second-down blitz. But he got up quickly.

"I don't like them thinking that they hit me hard," Rowe said. "There's only a few of them that hurt. I usually tell them, 'Good hit' just to let them know to keep coming. I can handle it."