BOSTON -- When Dominique Davis stepped into his first huddle as the Boston College quarterback, the soft-spoken redshirt freshman with the Southern accent had to say everything twice before his teammates got it.
There's no misunderstanding him now.
"When he first got in, you could tell he was a little nervous and shaky," said receiver Rich Gunnell, who's also Davis' roommate. "You can tell he knows it's his time now. He's going to be the starter. ... I think he's starting to get comfortable with himself and he's starting to take on the role as leader."
When BC starter Chris Crane broke his collarbone in the second quarter against Wake Forest last weekend, Davis stepped in and led the Eagles (8-3, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) to a 24-21 victory that kept alive their chances of a second straight ACC Atlantic Division title. With a victory on Saturday against Maryland (7-4, 4-3), BC would advance to the Dec. 6 league championship game against either Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech.
"It's great not to rely on anybody. It's kind of nice not to be playing and then checking the scores," linebacker Mark Herzlich said. "It's probably the biggest game of our lives so far. It's a one-and-done; you win and you get the Atlantic Division championship."
But they'll need to do it behind their former backup.
Crane was a longtime backup to Matt Ryan before he went to the pros as the first-round draft choice of the Atlanta Falcons and the likely NFL offensive rookie of the year. He will miss four to six weeks, making it possible but unlikely that he would be able to return for a bowl.
Davis was so bad when he came off the bench last week that teammates spent their time in the huddle giving him positive feedback so his confidence wouldn't collapse. Other players said he was so tentative they couldn't hear him; Davis, from Lakeland, Fla., insisted it was his accent that threw them off.
"It's a scary position, not playing all season and then being put in, to date, the biggest game of the season. That will rattle anybody, if you're a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. It's a tough spot to be in," receiver Brandon Robinson said. "I knew he was rattled in the huddle."
Davis fumbled twice early on -- both were returned for touchdowns -- before he settled down and lead BC on a nine-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in his 1-yard sneak with 1:12 left for the game-winning touchdown.
"When you can have a game-winning drive as a quarterback ... that's a good sign," BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "And he did it in his first chance to do it. So that was energizing."
Davis credited his teammates.
"The players around me kept me calm, because they could tell I was a little shaky," he said. "I can't be too calm, but I can't be too urgent. It's just got to be in between."
Maryland blew its chance at a conference title when it lost 37-3 to Florida State last week. The Terrapins can tie for the division title with a victory over BC, but they lose the tiebreaker and the berth in the conference championship game in Tampa Bay to the Seminoles.
"We really thought this might be the Maryland team that could go all the way," linebacker Moise Fokou said. "But we realize we still have a lot to play for."
A victory would leave Maryland with a chance at a second-tier bowl with a multi-million dollar payout like the Chik-fil-A, Champs Sports or Gator Bowl; a loss leaves them looking at a lower payout and a lower-profile bowl.
"We can be co-division champions or we can fall back in the bottom at 4-4, where everybody is at," Fokou said. "Getting this win here will still give us a little bit of life and allow us to go to a good bowl game."
Florida State is now No. 23, but it wasn't ranked at the time -- bad luck for a Maryland team that is 4-0 against Top 25 teams this season. Another good omen: The Terps have bounced back from each of its previous three losses to beat a ranked opponent.
"We've noticed that trend," tight end Dan Gronkowski said. "Now that BC is ranked, hopefully the trend continues."
More importantly, he said, "It would just put us in a better situation for a bowl game, too."
Copyright AP - Associated Press