NEWTON, Mass. -- It was a true make or break moment.
A couple of Maryland freshmen had just combined on a 66-yard scoring play -- QB Caleb Rowe to wideout Stefon Diggs -- to complete the comeback from 13-0 and put the Terps on top 17-13. There was 8:47 to go in the game, and Boston College had to make something happen.
Chase Rettig led the Eagles' offense back onto the field, needing to go 70 yards for a score.
To that point in the afternoon, BC was 0-for-10 on third down.
But the Eagles finally converted one, with Rettig finding Chris Pantale for 8 yards and a first down on third-and-2. It seemed like momentum might actually be building for a potential winning drive.
And then disaster struck. Joe Vellano sacked Rettig and forced a fumble that A.J. Francis recovered. Maryland had the ball back, and if BC was to have a chance its much-maligned defense would have to get it back.
"When I was coming off the field, the defensive guys obviously told me 'We got your back. We're gonna get a stop,'" Rettig said. "It worked out well."
The defense forced the Terrapins to go three-and-out and gave Rettig and the offense one more shot. The junior quarterback didn't waste it, completing passes to four different receivers and standing his ground and taking a big shot from a Maryland defender to complete a 17-yard pass to Alex Amidon on third-and-9 from the Terps' 36-yard line.
That diving catch by Amidon set up a 14-yard score to Johnathan Coleman two plays later, giving BC back the lead at 20-17 and propelling the Eagles to their first ACC win.
"What can I say?" BC head coach Frank Spaziani said. "It was an exciting, exhilarating victory and I can't say enough about the job that the kids did to hang in there. We struggled on offense but were able to make a bunch of plays at the end."
It started with the defensive stop after the turnover.
"It was a big momentum swing," linebacker Nick Clancy said. "Getting the D off the field and not having the offense capitalize on that stop was frustrating. But the attitude of our defense was almost like we wanted to be back out there. I've never seen our D-linemen so fired up to get back out on the field and our DBs so ready to play. I think that was a huge part of why we were so successful today.
"It was almost like we wanted to be out there and have the game on our shoulders."
For a unit that's struggled all season -- and that had struggled at times earlier in the afternoon -- to make big plays when it needed to, that was important.
But it wouldn't have meant anything if the offense, which had failed to do much of anything for most of the game against Maryland's solid defense, hadn't come through.
They were ready for the challenge.
"That's kind of been our mindset, just let us have the ball with two minutes left and we'll go win the game," Amidon said of the offense's stepping up late with the game on the line.
Rettig was exemplary on the final drive. The junior went 8-for-12 for 90 yards and a TD on the series, bumping his final numbers for the day to 21-for-39 for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
He kept it together in crunch time, even recovering his own fumble after the Maryland pass rush pushed his own offensive lineman into him and knocked the ball loose.
That's not something this Boston College team has proven especially adept at this season. The Eagles have come up short in those situations more often than not, leading to the five-game losing streak they were on coming into this afternoon's matchup.
"The last five weeks have been tough, obviously," Rettig said. "Offensively we've done some good things this year and people have taken notice, but we could've done more in other games. It's just nice that we finally put it together at the end of the game there and scored a touchdown."
The win is BC's first against an FBS opponent, and improves the record to 2-6 overall, 1-4 in the ACC.
"It feels great," Amidon said. "It doesn't fix everything, it just feels awesome."
And while the win was far from perfect -- with the Eagles giving up four sacks, fumbling on the goal line on their second offensive possession and finishing just 3-for-13 on third down conversions -- Spaziani said it delivered a message.
"It's a confirmation for me of what we believe in, and what those kids have in them," he said. "I'm glad they were able to get the result. See I know it's there, and I know how to get it out of them. But they're young, 18, 20, 21, 22 years old and they need to have something like that."
Asked what the win meant, Spaziani said, "It was like" -- then he paused and took a deep breath -- "the next breath of air.
"We were at the end of our rope there a little bit. It was good to get that one and hopefully we'll get some confidence and continue on and get better."
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.