Terps need to win the close ones, Edsall says

November 24, 2013|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland had just converted on fourth down and had the ball inside the red zone with a four-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.

The Terps appeared headed to a victory over Boston College in their final Atlantic Coast Conference home game.

But Maryland couldn't finish the drive.

On first down from the Eagles' 11-yard-line, freshman running back Jacquille Veii was swarmed by tacklers after taking a handoff, and the ball was stripped. Boston College linebacker Steven Daniels recovered Veii's fumble, and the Eagles went on to score a key touchdown in their 29-26 win.

Maryland was left to ponder its inability to close out a game that was clearly within its sights.

"I told [the players] today that what we've got to do is continue to focus on finishing," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said Sunday.

With just five ACC victories since the beginning of the 2011 season, the Terps have little experience winning close games. Nearly two-thirds of the roster is comprised of underclassmen.

With the Terps leading 24-20, Edsall gambled by using Veii, a promising freshman who is smaller and quicker than starter Brandon Ross, a redshirt sophomore.

"We felt he gave us the best opportunity to get to the edge," Edsall said.

Veii appeared to be held up by Boston College defenders, his forward motion perhaps stopped. A replay review confirmed the fumble. Edsall immediately met Veii on the sideline after the play and spoke with him.

The coach said Sunday that securing the ball is more challenging in the red zone because it is a "condensed" area.

"If you see a guy that is coming off a block, what you have to do as a running back is cover it up with two hands and basically lower the shoulder when you're in that condensed area and squeeze tight," Edsall said. "Because guys are going to be looking to strip (the ball). I think that's the coaching point from that play."

Veii had two carries in the third quarter and four in the fourth, finishing with 16 yards.

After the fumble, Boston College scored a touchdown to take a 26-24 lead. But the extra point was blocked, and the live ball was returned the length of the field by Anthony Nixon for two Maryland points.

The unusual play "swung the momentum, again," Terps quarterback C.J. Brown said. "Just like that, it was a zero to zero game. We had the ball and another opportunity to score. That was our mentality. We had been moving the ball all day. We felt like our worst enemy was us, with the penalties and the little miscues that we had. We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot."

Maryland (6-5, 2-5 ACC) plays its final regular-season game — and last ACC game before entering the Big Ten — at North Carolina State (3-8, 0-7 ACC) on Saturday.

The Terps became bowl-eligible with their victory over Virginia Tech on Nov. 16. Edsall has declined to comment on specific bowl scenarios.

Representatives from the Military Bowl and AdvoCare V100 Bowl scouted Saturday's game. Both games have slots reserved for ACC teams.

There are more bowl-eligible teams from the ACC than bowl games that are holding openings for the conference.

That means that Maryland — if it lost to the Wolfpack — could end up playing as an at-large entry in a bowl game that is not tied to the ACC.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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