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BC defense repels Maryland in Quick Lane Bowl win

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — Boston College’s defense gave its offense a lot of short fields to work with, and it paid off in a 36-30 victory over Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field on Monday.

Boston College (7-6) entered the game ranked eighth in total defense, then had three first-quarter sacks, leading to touchdown drives of 49 and 46 yards for a 13-0 lead the Eagles didn’t give up in earning their first bowl win since 2007.

BOX SCORE: Boston College 36, Maryland 30, Quick Lane Bowl

The Eagles had four sacks, forced two fumbles and got on an interception from second-team All-America defensive end Harold Landry, to take a 29-13 halftime lead.

Then Boston College junior nose tackle Noa Merritt showed just how impressive the defense was when he penetrated Maryland’s line on the opening series of the second half and got between quarterback Perry Hills and running back Ty Johnson to force a fumble, which Kevin Kavalec pounced on in the end zone for a 36-13 lead.

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“We just try to be relentless on every single play and just get after the quarterback, that’s our No. 1 goal and I thought we got that done today,” said Kavalec who had a sack, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble for the TD and broke up a pass.

On his TD, Kavalec said: “It was huge, really the difference in the game so that was awesome.”

Maryland had its share of big plays — TD runs of 62 and 30 yards by Ty Johnson; and long TD passes by Hills, a63-yarder to Teldrick Morgan and a 52-yarder to Levern Jacobs to pull within 37-27 with 10:05 left in the third quarter.

Maryland would get several chances after that to get back in the game or take the lead, but Boston College stopped one drive on fourth-and-inches, another on a fumble recovery, another it held Maryland to a field goal, and on the last it batted down two passes and sacked Hills on the last drive.

“Our defense did a heck of a job today and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Landry, who made the sack to end Maryland’s final drive. “It’s all about who wants it more. We proved it today that we wanted it more.”

Boston College put the pressure on Hills from the opening minutes with Ray Smith collecting the first sack, giving the Eagles the ball at Maryland’s 49 and Jon Hilliman went to work, rushing for 36 yards on six carries, the final one going for a yard on third-and-goal for a 6-0 lead with the PAT blocked.

Hills was sacked on the next drive, resulting in another short field fand the Eagles scored on the 46-yard drive. Boston College quarterback Patrick Towles got a first down on a fourth-and-1 keeper, then found tight end Tommy Sweeney for a 20-yard reception to the 10, concluding the drive with a third-and-goal toss to Sweeney, who was wide open in the left corner for a 2-yard TD and a 13-0 cushion with 13:40 left in the half.

Boston College’s defense was just getting started. Kavalec got around running back Ty Johnson and forced Hills into fumbling with Truman Gutapfel bouncing on the ball at the Maryland 18. Boston College turned that into a 22-yard field goal by Mike Knoll for a 16-0 lead.

Towles threw for a pair of TD passes and caught a 20-yard TD toss from Jeff Smith, who took the handoff on a reverse and fired a strike to Towles down the right sideline for a 23-7 lead.

Towles ended a 36-point second quarter when he directed a 70-yard drive in the final minute, hitting J.C. Jackson down the right sideline for a 49-yard TD pass with 35 seconds left.

Towles finished 10-for-22 for 151 yards with two TDs and an interceptions. Hills was 15-for-35 for 229 yards and two TDs with an interception.

Johnson rushed for 159 yards and two TDs.

In the end, it was Boston College’s defense that was the difference and its front four was honored as MVPs.

“We knew going into the game that BC had a very good defensive front, and they do,” said Maryland first-year head coach D.J. Durkin, a former coach under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. “They’ve done that to a lot of teams, but we’ve got to man up and at times we did and at times we didn’t and that certainly hurt us.”

Durkin left extremely impressed with Landry.

“He’s a very good football player, talented guy and has a future in the NFL,” Durkin said of Landry who finished the season with 16½ sacks.