In what turned out to be a grinding battle, Boston College football took home its first bowl victory in nine years on Monday night, trumping Maryland 36-30 in the Quick Lane Bowl.
The D-line led the charge once again, tying a school record with eight sacks in the game as well as four turnovers. Defensively, BC also recorded 14 tackles-for-loss, and forced 3rd-and-out on nearly every Maryland possession in the first half.
Maryland and BC entered Ford Field in Detroit Monday afternoon on a similar playing field. Both teams were 6-6, recorded 6 losses against in-conference opponents, and, most notably, had two head coaches that go way back. Maryland might not have even been in a position to play the Eagles had Steve Addazio not brought the Terrapins head coach D.J. Durkin on board at Florida in 2010.
“A lot of our program, what we do and what is based on is right in line with Steve and, to be honest with you, things I learned from Steve,” Durkin stated.
What resulted in the eventual matchup was an explosive showcase of both teams.
The Eagles (7-6, 2-6 ACC) came out firing. Their 29-point first half marked the highest scoring half by the team in all of 2016. On one noteworthy drive, Addazio resurrected a play from a game against FSU in 2014. Patrick Towles made a handoff to Michael Walker, who then dished it to Jeff Smith. Catching Maryland off-guard, Jeff Smith then found Towles wide open along the right side for the red zone. The touchdown made Towles the first ACC player to both throw and receive a touchdown in the same bowl game in 14 years, easing BC into halftime at 29-13.
Just when BC fans began to tilt along the lines of comfortability with a reasonable halftime margin, then came the second half. Despite difficulty sustaining a long drive, Maryland found a way to put 14 points on the board within the first five minutes of the 3rd quarter on one-shots, bringing the score to 27-36.
The Eagles were able to hold off the Terrapins for the remainder of the 3rd, led by Harold Landry—who finished the season with 17 sacks. But in the fourth quarter, when once again BC's offense could not execute, the defense held strong. With under four minutes remaining in the game, BC’s Jon Hilliman fumbled on the Eagles' seven-yard-line. The Terps then took over at 1st and Goal, but BC secured three tips to force a Maryland field goal, bringing the score to 36-30.
Although Hilliman then failed to reach a first down in the last two minutes, putting the ball in the Terps court (literally and figuratively), Landry once again forced three balls into the sideline by Maryland quarterback Perry Hills. At fourth down, Landry—in potentially the junior’s last game as an Eagle—sacked Hills to seal his team's first bowl victory since 2007.
Although some players, fans, and critics have voiced their opinions on bowl games being meaningless, for this BC senior class—which has lost two of its last three bowl appearances—the win was certainly meaningful.
“We started the year in Ireland, and we didn’t find a way to win yet. I really believe we have finally set that platform forward. We have a great vibe right now. There’s so much positivity in the football world about Boston College,” Addazio stated.
In a season of serious ups and downs for BC football, the Eagles bring home a winning season (just barely) after all.