1 2 3 4 FThe Story...
Boston College 10 6 0 3 19
Maryland 3 7 0 7 17
In what will ultimately amount to a frustrating but satisfying game for the Eagles, Montel Harris led the offense with another 100+ yard effort, Dave Shinskie played his best game in a month and the defense was solid if unspectacular to help BC pick up their second road win of the season 19-17 at Byrd Stadium in College Park, MD. The Terrapins were feisty though as they battled, perhaps more valiantly than many of us (myself included) believed they would. They put together a tough gritty game, and gave themselves a chance to win, but in the end, talent won out and the better team came away with the victory. It certainly wasn't easy though, as BC struggled again to put the ball in the end zone and having settle for 4 field goals. The defensive line though, kept Maryland from capitalizing on the offenses mistakes, posting it's best game of the season by harassing both Maryland QB's throughout the game, and coming up with 2 huge stops on 4th down in the 4th quarter. After a late Maryland TD, Colin Larmond recovered an onside kick to preserve the win. For the Eagles, they finish the regular season with a record of 8-4. It's the 9th time this decade the team finished with at least 8 wins (They won just 7 in 2000).
By the Numbers...
16...The number of tackles by freshman phenom Luke Kuechly. Luke was all over the field again yesterday and now has 35 tackles in his last 2 games. The play that everyone will remember in this game though was the staggering feat of athleticism on 4th and short with about 9 minutes remaining in the game. Luke was able to hurdle the offensive line and hit QB JaMarr Robinson before he was able to make any forward progress and get the ball back for the Eagles. This was easily the play of the game as BC held a tenuous 1 score lead and momentum seemed to be building for the Terps.
41...The number of carries for running back Montel Harris. Harris ran for 142 yards on those carries to tie a 39 year old record for total carries in a game. I mentioned this in the preview that the coaching staff needed to allow Harris to tote the rock as many times as was necessary to win the game and they accomplished that in this game. Despite facing repeated 8 and 9 man fronts in the game, Montel kept finding holes and kept moving the sticks and shortening the game for BC. Montel finishes the regular season with 1,355 yards on the ground.
4...The number of sacks by the BC defensive line. This line has been criticized and beaten on all year by both opponents and the media, but on this day they were tremendous. As DT Damik Scafe has gotten healthier, after struggling with neck and shoulder issues most of the year, he has given the Eagles a space eating presence in the middle of the line that has sorely been missed. He ate up blocks throughout the game and allowed the rest of the line and the linebackers to work against 1 on 1 blocking and effectively pressure the Maryland QB platoon and limit the running game of the Terps.
4/5...The number of field goals made/missed by kicker Steve Aponavicius. The 1 that people will focus on is the miss he had early in the 3rd quarter that would have stretched the game to a 2 score lead and was his first miss of any kid this season, but what people should focus on is the kick he made late in the game with all the pressure on him. The wind, while not howling, certainly was a factor in the game, not to mention the natural grass surface and the length of the kick (42 yards, longest of the season). It was a clutch play for the senior, who said a few weeks ago that he would love to close out his career with another game-winner ala the bowl win over Navy in 2006. He was never the greatest kicker but he often made the ones that counted the most. Steve finished the season 37/37 on extra points and 13/14 on field goals.
He took bad sacks, made a few poor decisions, refused to run with the ball, and held it for too long. Under most circumstances that would garner a thumbs down from me, but he deserves credit for making the right passes at the right time, not turning the ball over, and not forcing balls into coverage. He managed the game and didn't put the defense in bad position the way he had the last few weeks. Shinskie completed 14/23 passes for 227 yards, 1 touchdown, and most importantly, no interceptions. He's taken a great deal of heat, especially for his play on the road, but he's proven that he's a tough guy mentally as he blocked it out and played his best game away from Alumni.
When all the pre-season predictions came out and BC was roundly picked to finish last in the conference, 1 of the reasons I felt like they would be in good shape this year was Damik. Scafe played a good amount last year and had 2 years to learn under BJ Raji and Ron Brace, so I figured he would be an adequate replacement. Damik has been hurt a good portion of the season, but the last 2 weeks since he's returned, we've seen him flash some of that potential and then yesterday we saw him explode. He dominated the Terrapin O-Line picking up his first sack of the year and was able to eat up blocks and be a major force in the running game. If he's healthy next year, Scafe will be a headache for opposing teams.
A lot has been made about the season that Harris has had this year (over 1,300 yards rushing with over 250 attempts). But, I don't enough has been made about his improvement from last year to this year. Harris has shown dramatic improvement in his ability to find holes, make tacklers miss, and pick up yards after contact. He was able to do this in small doses last year, but has had to learn to do it this season at an exponentially higher level because many teams(especially late in the year) were gearing their entire defenses to stop him. Yet, despite that he had at least 130 yards in each of the last 4 games. At this pace, Harris may go down as one of the greatest running backs in school history.
People who know me, know that I am not a fan of this young man. By all accounts, he's a nice kid who works hard and wants to get better. But the fact of the matter is that he simply can not cover anyone at this level and is a major liability. When he comes in the game, teams immediately find him and go at him play after play. The last few weeks he's been less noticeable, but yesterday was a tough day for him. 3 times, Fletcher was thrown against, 3 times the Terrapins picked up the 1st down. 1 of those plays, Fletcher tripped over his own 2 feet and allowed a 3rd and long completion that led to the Terps first TD, and on another, he blew a tackle in front of the first down marker. and allowed a drive to continue. It frightens me that he might be starting next year in place of the graduating Roderick Rollins.
Gary Tranquill & Frank Spaziani
As the season has gone along, we've seen more and more conservative play calling from Gary Tranquill. The lack of play-action yesterday was startling considering the game-long 8 and 9 man fronts the Eagles faced and was a direct result of their being forced to kick field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. With the safety's playing as close to the line as they were, and the corners playing Larmond and Gunnell 1 on 1, it seemed like at some point the best course of action would be to eventually run play action and try something deep, or at least over the middle. Only once did this happen, and it resulted in a big 1st down in the 4th quarter which resulted in sarcastic applause from me. On the goal line and in 3rd and 4th and short, it was more of the same. Everyone in the stadium knew the draw to Harris was coming but rather than run mis-direction (play action, bootleg, etc), the Eagles chose to bang their heads against the wall resulting in 3's instead of 6's.
This was a pretty good performance against a team that played way above itself due to the emotion of it being senior day, the last game of the season, and the potential final game in the career of head coach Ralph Friedgen. The Terps played with a great deal of passion and forced the Eagles to up there game. They made big plays when they needed them (the 4th down stops) and they were clutch when it counted the most (Steve's game winning field goal, Larmond shaking off the drops to come down with the onside kick, etc). The team will hopefully take this win and be proud of the way they had to earn this one and that they did not turn the ball over at all. The Eagles will now await their bowl fate when the bids get handed out next weekend at the conclusion of the conference championship games. The Eagles will either be bowling in Charlotte or San Francisco.