Errors stack up for struggling BC

NEWTON, Mass. -- In a game they had to have, the Boston College Eagles came close but couldn't overcome the little mistakes that dog good teams and destroy mediocre ones.

A late Eagles rally against Maryland fell short Saturday, and BC fell to the Terrapins 24-21 at Alumni Stadium.

"Obviously the three [Boston College] turnovers to zero [Maryland turnovers] has a tilting factor in the game," BC coach Frank Spaziani said after the game, "but we just don't have that winning edge right now, and until we get it, we're gonna be doing the horseshoe thing."

As in close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. As in another close loss in what's close to becoming a lost season.

Their fifth straight loss dropped the Eagles to 2-5 overall, 0-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"Obviously we're disappointed," Spaziani said. "We practiced well, made some progress during the week, but that just didn't translate into a victory."

Coming into Saturday's game, no one in the ACC had forced more turnovers than the Eagles (18) and no one in the ACC had committed fewer turnovers than the Terps (7). It figured that winning the turnover battle would help win the game.

Of course, simply forcing a turnover isn't enough. The offense has to be able to convert those opportunities into points, something BC has struggled with at times this season.

Maryland's offense has been up to the challenge. With two touchdowns off three BC turnovers Saturday, Maryland has scored 52 points off of its 15 takeaways this season.

Terps opponents, meanwhile, have scored just a single touchdown off the team's seven turnovers.

"Every turnover hurts, but that's why it's important to have a short memory in football," Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig said. "You gotta forget about it. You could see us bounce back, but we shouldn't let those things happen."

One of those things came early in the second quarter, with the Eagles driving and the score tied at 7. Running back Montel Harris, the normally steady-handed workhorse, coughed up the ball on the BC 38-yard line.

"It opened up and I seen green grass in front of me and I thought I was gonna break out," Harris said, "the ball got kinda loose and someone tried to tackle me and tackled the ball and it came loose."

The Terps scooped up the loose ball and, eight plays later, were in the end zone for the second time. The score put the visitors up on the scoreboard (14-7) and in the forcing turnovers battle (1-0). It quieted the home crowd and put the onus squarely on the BC offense to put together a drive, put points on the board and take back control of the game.

Instead, Rettig's next pass was tipped and intercepted, and the opportunistic Maryland offense, enjoying the short field, punched it into the end zone for the third time. Now the scores read 21-7, and 2-0.

It didn't help matters that BC struggled all day on third down: The offense went just 6-of-15 and the defense allowed the Terps to convert 10 of 19.

"Third downs, we gotta get off the field, it's a crucial down for defense," BC linebacker Luke Kuechly said. "We had them in some spots where we could've got them off the field but, you know, again we left a play here, play there. It kinda hurt and kept their drives going, and we've gotta work on that this week."

After the game, senior linebacker Mark Herzlich said there wasn't one problem on third down, but many. Sometimes it was an Eagles defender out of position, sometimes it was a miscommunication on offense that led to a turnover. And sometimes it was just a good play by a good Maryland team.

It all added up to another addition to the loss column, to another dose of frustration.

"It's really frustrating," Herzlich said. "No one's gonna be happy losing five straight games."

Much of that frustration is born from the fact the Eagles have seemingly been in most of the games they've lost. A play made here, a friendly bounce there, and maybe things would be different in Chestnut Hill.

With this Eagles team -- inexperienced on offense, with some uncharacteristic uncertainty on the offensive line and with a defense that can stop the run but struggles to pressure the passer -- every mistake is magnified.

"We're making some errors that we need not to be making because we have very, very, very little margin for error," Spaziani said.

Such as on the Eagles' final drive Saturday. The defense stopped Davin Meggett on a fourth-and-1 attempt, giving BC the ball on its own side of the 50 with just more than a minute left to play and a three-point deficit to make up. If the Eagles were going to end their four-game losing streak, there was no margin for error.

But after two quick completions picked up 9 yards and moved the ball to the BC 44, the third-down struggles continued. Instead of giving the ball to Harris, who had rushed for 116 yards on the afternoon, Rettig took the snap and looked to throw. His throw was on target but ticked off the hands of Johnathan Coleman and fell incomplete.

On fourth-and-1, the Eagles attempted to go to their bread and butter, but the Terps stacked seven men in the box and Harris was stopped short of the marker. The spot, which did not appear generous (at least not for BC), was reviewed and upheld.

Spaziani didn't question the officials' spot after the game, instead putting the blame squarely on the Eagles' shoulders.

"We've gotta drive it and knock it back so it's not close," Spaziani said. " That's the little winning edge that we need, and kudos to them -- they stopped us and we weren't able to get it."

After the game, the Eagles uniformly expressed frustration with the second consecutive close loss and fifth consecutive loss overall. They talked about continuing to work hard and trying to salvage what's left of the season.

"I'm not about to get down on the guys," said the freshman Rettig, who finished his second complete game 18-of-33 for 189 yards. "We all know that in order to get it done, we have to come together."

The Eagles feel as if they're close. But as Spaziani noted, close only counts in horseshoes.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and contributes to ESPNBoston.com.