COLLEGE PARK, Md. – They cleared Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium Saturday at halftime because of lightning moving through the area.
It took awhile in the game but lightning did eventually strike, again and again, as Bowling Green shocked Maryland in a 48-27 upset that dropped the Terrapins back to 1-1, and has them searching to fix a defense that yielded 692 yards and find a way to finish drives, an issue that has plagued the offense through two games.
The Terrapins led 20-13, before the Falcons (1-1) struck for five of the next six scores, including the last three touchdowns – all on pass plays. Quarterback Matt Johnson completed 36-of-55 passes for 491 yards and a whopping six touchdowns and the Maryland defensive backs made a lot of plays or it could have been worse.
Bowling Green ran 105 plays and just left the Maryland defense, which allowed the most yards since 694 against West Virginia last season, totally gassed in the fourth quarter.
“We had a lot of plays but it shouldn’t matter,” said defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who had a career high three sacks. “We have to execute better as a team. We win as a team and we lose as a team.”
Maryland settled for two Brad Craddock field goals on promising drives in the first half and then blew their own foot off in the fourth quarter with three interceptions, one by Perry Hills on a big fourth down at midfield, and two by Caleb Rowe, in for relief-pitching late.
Rowe was a disappointing 1-of-3 for 17 yards and the two picks. Hills, who turned in a gritty performance if not virtuoso passing effort, was 15-for-30 for 168 yards, two scores and the interception, and the door may have opened on Randy Edsall’s worst fear, a quarterback controversy.
“We’ll sit down and watch the film and have a discussion about what we’re going to do moving forward,” he said.
Hills had several big plays on the ground, rushing eight times for a team-high and a career-high 94 yards. But Maryland was three of 12 on third down conversions, and couldn’t sustain offense on an afternoon in which that goal was imperative. Bowling Green had the ball for 37:57 compared to Maryland’s 22:03.
“We weren’t as efficient as we needed to be,” said senior guard Andrew Zeller. “Our goal was to score more points because we knew what kind of offense they had.”
But even in a shootout that saw Maryland rack up 341 total yards, the Terrapins were at times with a pop-gun going against an assault rifle the way they failed to convert. The defense never had a chance in the fourth quarter.
“(It was) a team loss today,” said Edsall. “Offense, defense, special teams and coaching contributed to it. What we have to do is watch the film and come back better next week.”
None of the Terrapins blamed the 55-minute delay through halftime, though Maryland led 13-6 at the break in what seemed like a completely different game. Even then, though, Maryland’s offense had only accounted for the two field goals and it was that man – Will Likely – who turned in the first half’s biggest play on an 85-yard punt return.
A good portion of the 36,332 on hand came back after the stadium was cleared at halftime but they saw Bowling Green really come back. Lightning did seemingly strike, Johnson hitting Robbie Rhodes on a bubble screen and Rhodes busting down the seam for a 64-yard gain. But Ngakoue registered his third sack and the Maryland defense held. Tyler Tate missed his second field goal attempt of the day, this one from 34 yards, to preserve the Terrapin lead.
But the Terps couldn’t move the ball. Hills had Derrick Hayward drop a pass and then he threw behind Avery Edwards on third down.
The Falcons took wing when they got the ball back. Speedy wide receiver Roger Lewis got behind Sean Davis and caught a 58-yard scoring pass from Johnson and Tate’s extra point kick at 12:10, tied the score at 13-13. Lewis would put up pinball numbers with 15 catches for 200 yards and two scores.
The Terps got good field position because of an unsportsmanlike penalty on Lewis, though. The kickoff went out of bounds to set Maryland up at midfield. Three plays later, Hills stood in on a big hit and found freshman D.J. Moore on a crossing route. Moore hauled in the pass, stumbling but he kept his balance to complete a 42-yard scoring play, his first collegiate touchdown. Maryland was quickly back in front, 20-13, at 10:47.
Terrapins Stumble Late
The defense held Bowling Green but Davidson, now rolling out and punting on the run, uncorked a 56-yarder that Likely tried to field but fumbled. Bowling Green’s Alfonso Mack recovered at the 14-yard line. Alvin Hill came up with an end zone interception but Ngakoue was offside on a key third down play. On the next play, Travis Greene smashed in for the score from three yards to tie the game again, 20-20, at 7:54.
The Falcons were eight of 18 on third down conversions, five of nine in the second half.
The Terps had to punt but got a break. Pressure on Johnson forced a poor throw to Ronnie Moore, and A.J. Hendy got a hand on it and deflected right to linebacker Jalen Brooks for his first career interception.
Hills looked like he had a big third down completion to Moore but the freshman came down with his foot out of bounds. Craddock came on to Aussie punt it with the nose down. Hendy gathered the punt in at the 1-yard line, a 39-yard effort, but the Terrapins had squandered a chance to retake the lead. It would cost them.
The Falcons got out of the hole, Fred Coppet gaining 14 on a third-down draw. A third-and-13 pass interference on Davis produced another first. Coppet broke off back-to-back runs of 12 and 13 yards.
The march would turn into a back-breaking 17-play, 99-yard scoring drive when Johnson hit Ryan Burbink over the middle from five yards at 14:27 of the fourth quarter. Bowling Green surged ahead, 27-20.
Maryland got the ball back but on a third down play, Hills’ four-yard pass to Brown was way short of a first down as boos were heard from the stands. But in the aftermath of the play, Bowling Green defensive back Clinton Stephens picked up an unsportsmanlike penalty that gave the Terps new life.
Hills ran for 10 yards, then hit Amba Etta-Tawo for 12 yards. Hills ran for 10 more. With the ball at the 22, Hills rolled right and threw back across his body, hitting Levern Jacobs going against the grain, Jacobs dashing in untouched to tie the game 27-27 at 12:30.
Johnson waxed the defense again, hitting four of five passes for 71 yards on a 73-yard drive. The senior quarterback found Lewis, who appeared to push off on Davis, for a 27-yard score at 9:53 to put the Falcons up 34-27.
After Hills hit Lavern Jacobs for 14 yards, the Terrapins ended up facing a fourth down near midfield. After a timeout, Hills threw down the seam to Jacobs but Mack got a hand on it and deflected the pass to safety Dernard Turner for an interception.
Three plays later, Johnson found Rhodes for a 44-yard score and a 41-27 lead with 8:18 to play.
Rowe Can’t Rally Terps
Edsall replaced Hills but Rowe had linebacker James Sanford tip his pass for an interception by Stephens. Five plays later, Johnson hit Gehrig Dieter for a 14-yard score down the middle. The Falcons, who won on the road against a Power Five school for the first time since the 2008 opener at Pittsburgh, had a 21-point lead with 5:24 to play.
Rowe hit Malcolm Culmer for 17 yards when Maryland got the ball back but he overthrew Jacobs on the next play, Turner intercepting and returning the ball 32 yards to the Maryland 34. Bowling Green was able to run out the clock from there, probably not an easy thing to do when playing as fast the Falcons.
“They hit some short passes,” said Edsall. “We did a pretty good job of making some plays in the first half. In the second half we just didn’t make any plays. We had opportunities. We had them in long situations to do that and we just couldn’t get it done.”
In addition to Lewis, Moore caught eight passes for 79 yards. Rhodes had the two receptions for 108 yards. Coppet finished with 109 yards on 15 carries, a lot of it late against tired defenders. “Of course you’re going to be tired out there for so long, but we still have to fight and push,” said Ngakoue. “That’s what practice is for. We push hard in practice because we have to be prepared for stuff like that (105 plays) in the game.”
Those were obviously Terrapin talking points coming out of the locker room after the game, among the three players made available after Edsall’s brief press-briefing. “We have to get in and watch the film and correct the little things,” said Zeller. “We have to come back out this week and have a great week and prepare for South Florida. It hurts because we definitely could have beaten that team.”
After Hills’ 94 yards on the ground, Wes Brown chipped in 56 on nine rushes. Brandon Ross had a dismal 10 yards on eight carries. Etta-Tawo caught five passes for 49 yards; Culmer four for 26; Jacobs 3 for 32; and Brown 2 for 28.
“It’s always tough taking a loss because you don’t play the game to lose,” said Hills. “It really hurts, especially because I hate losing. We have to watch the tape, forget about it and get ready for the next game.”
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
Leading just 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, Maryland got a big play from a likely source, Likely fielding Joseph Davidson’s 54-yard punt on his own 15, hemmed in on the right sideline. Likely cut to the middle and shot through an opening. Eighty-five yards later the band was playing, Likely tying Tony Logan for the second longest return in school history. (Dick Nolan went 90 yards in 1953 against Clemson for the school record.)
Bowling Green went to work on the next possession, Johnson connecting on 6-of-7 passes for 72 yards, the last a 5-yard chest pass to tight end Derek Lee for a score. The Falcons went for two on the conversion but linebacker Jefferson Ashiru sniffed out the play and made a big hit to stop the screen and make it 10-6 at 12:05.
Bowling Green kicked off short away from Likely, a good idea. But the ball wound up with Ty Johnson, not such a good idea. He had a 19-yard return to set up Maryland at the 48. Hills made the big play, escaping the pocket on third down and scrambling 36 yards to the 11-yard line.
“They did a good job in covering that play but I saw man-to-man and I had a big opening to run,” he said of a play reminiscent of C.J. Brown.
Three Wes Brown runs netted six yards as the offense stalled in the red zone. Craddock kicked a 23-yard field goal at 4:07 to make it 13-6.
The Terps seemed to have the Falcons pinned back after Quinton Jefferson got an 8-yard sack but Coppet went 24 yards on a draw. A pass interference call on Likely also extended the drive. Davis, picked on all first half, made a big hit for no gain on a wide receiver screen and Jefferson tackled Moore for a short gain on a trick play in the flat.
Davis would lead Maryland with 14 tackles, and Jermaine Carter, Jr., had a career-high 13.
The ball went back to the Terps, who hoped to get Craddock another shot but the half ended with Hills hitting Brown for a 24-yard gain to the 23-yard line. As the teams went to the locker room, the game was suspended because of lightning within 10 miles of the stadium.
Fast Start for Terps
The Terrapins had opened briskly, moving 52 yards in the game’s first two minutes. Hills hit Etta-Tawo on a quick pass on the game’s first play for 18 yards, and then Hills kept on an option, picking up 22 yards off right tackle. Culmer had a 9-yard reception and Ross gained two for another first down but then Hills threw incomplete on three consecutive plays.
Craddock hit a 41-yard field goal to put Maryland up 3-0 at 12:45 of the first quarter.
The Falcons flew down the field on their ensuing possession but Tate pushed a 27-yard field goal attempt wide at 7:46. Johnson, showing off a big league arm, hit 4-of-5 passes for 42 yards, all to Lewis.
When Maryland got the ball, Brown busted loose for a 14-yard run but the drive stalled, Hills under duress on back-to-back passes and forced to throw incomplete on third down. Nicolas Pritchard got off a 37-yard punt but Johnson was at it again, hitting Moore for 19 yards and then Lewis on a third down for 12.
Once inside the Terp 25, though, the going got tough. On a fourth-and-two, Ngakoue got Johnson for a 2-yard coverage sack.
Maryland was three-and-out and Likely made a key defensive play, coming out of nowhere to hit a wide-open Rhodes and dislodge him from the ball on what would have been a huge gain. When Jefferson and Roman Braglio combined to stuff Coppet for a two-yard loss, Bowling Green had to punt and Likely made sure that didn’t turn out well for the visitors with his 85-yard dash.
Maryland completes the three-game homestand next week with another noon kickoff against South Florida.