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Maryland Wins for Fallen Comrade

Oct 23, 2010 – 7:10 PM
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Patrick Stevens

Patrick Stevens %BloggerTitle%

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- More than anything, the Maryland football team wanted the opportunity to make two trips this weekend.

One was at Boston College to collect the program's first road triumph in more than two years.

The second -- a visit to a Washington-area hospital to deliver a game ball to offensive lineman Pete DeSouza -- was made possible with Saturday's 24-21 victory at Alumni Stadium.

DeSouza suffered a fractured tibia and fibula in both legs in a motor scooter accident Thursday night on campus. The Terrapins' starting right tackle was on his way back to his room from study hall and was hit when a car made a left-hand turn and collided with him.

"Definitely a heart-stopper right there," safety Kenny Tate said. "It's just more adversity. That's our teammate, our brother, our friend. It was just very heartbreaking to hear."

Maryland offensive lineman Paul Pinegar was in his room Thursday night when teammate Torrey Smith got the news DeSouza was injured. Soon there was an avalanche of text messages as the Terps tried to find out the latest.

Each update, though, revealed even more anguishing news.

"Our hearts just sank lower and lower and lower," Pinegar said. "Overall, it's a terrible situation."

DeSouza underwent nearly 12 hours of surgery on Friday as his teammates flew to New England. It took five hours for work on the first leg of the 6-foot-6, 310-pound redshirt freshman to be completed. It wasn't until 9:45 p.m. before the entire surgery was finished, complete with unusually large metal rods for the lineman.

"I imagine you just don't get the regular rods to put in Pete's legs," coach Ralph Friedgen said.

DeSouza is expected to make a complete recovery, although he will miss the rest of this season.

Maryland, however, knew what it needed to do to alleviate a little of the pain: Win a crucial game to help spur on the Terps' turnaround season.

DeSouza was already a central figure in Maryland's journey to push past last year's 2-10 record. He began the year as a reserve, but was thrust into a starting role when tackle Justin Gilbert suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament at West Virginia on Sept. 18.

It was on-the-job training for the Silver Spring, Md., native, who already had lost 40 pounds from a year earlier as part of Maryland's efforts to shape its line into a more agile, athletic group. He was on the wrong end of a tough matchup with Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers a week earlier, but teammates and Friedgen professed belief he was improving and would be a critical part of whatever success the Terps would enjoy in the second half.

That possibility gone, he instead became a rallying cry for the Terps (5-2, 2-1 ACC) to carry them through a typically taut meeting with the Eagles (2-5, 0-4) and move them within a victory of bowl eligibility.

"We were saying we have to win this one for Pete," Pinegar said. "We got word back that the first thing he said when the coaches got to the hospital was 'I'm sorry, but let's get this win.' We decided we were definitely going to get the win."

Pinegar, a versatile and cerebral former walk-on who played center in Maryland's first six games, shifted to DeSouza's right tackle spot. Sophomore guard Bennett Fulper stepped in at center after playing sparingly at the position this season.

With only five linemen, the Terps slogged through a game in which it could muster only 222 yards (including 40 on the ground). Yet they took advantage of favorable field position to produce three touchdown drives of less than 50 yards, then survived a second-half rally from Boston College with a fourth-down stop in the final two minutes.

"We didn't want to let him down. All game in the huddle, we just kept saying 'Win it for Pete, win it for Pete.' I think that got everyone focused on what the big goal was."
-- Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien
And in case there was ever any uncertainty on the sideline, DeSouza's name was invoked throughout the afternoon.

"We didn't want to let him down," quarterback Danny O'Brien said. "All game in the huddle, we just kept saying 'Win it for Pete, win it for Pete.' I think that got everyone focused on what the big goal was."

The 48-hour stretch was a jolt for Maryland, which stumbled through an ugly second half a week earlier and sat on the precipice of a potential collapse. The Terps' schedule in November is mostly daunting, and the possibility of returning to the postseason after a forgettable one-year hiatus figured to improve substantially with a rare road victory.

DeSouza's accident, however, provided an extra impetus.

"It was a bad feeling, but we definitely used that to our advantage and just used the motivation that it could be your last play at any time," Tate said. "Something worse could have happened, but we're glad he's still here."

It was a particularly personal game for Tate, who is a year older than DeSouza and was teammates with him at DeMatha Catholic High School in suburban Washington. The players' mothers became close during their prep careers, and often traveled together to games.

After Saturday, Tate plans to be part of a contingent that makes a much shorter -- yet even more meaningful -- trip to cap the weekend.

"That was definitely the whole mindset," Tate said. "The best thing we could do for him is get him that game ball on Sunday."
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