By Jarred Belman
Not even Mother Nature could slow down the Bowling Green offense on Saturday against Maryland. Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson threw for a career-high 491 yards and six touchdowns on their way to a 48-27 upset victory over the Terrapins in College Park.
Maryland came out on their first drive and drove the ball right down the field. Perry Hills found Amba Etta-Tawo for a 19-yard gain on the game’s first play and followed that up with a 22-yard rush of his own on the following play. The Terps settled for a Brad Craddock field goal after moving the ball to the Bowling Green 23-yard line to take an early three-point lead.
Bowling Green’s fast-paced no-huddle offense gave Maryland a lot of trouble in the game’s opening possessions. On the first drive for the Falcons, the team ran 15 plays for 66 yards in just under five minutes, getting the ball down to the Terps nine-yard line before kicker Tyler Tate missed a 27-yard field goal attempt wide left.
The Bowling Green offense continued to run wild on the Terrapin defense for much of the game, compiling 692 total yards on 105 plays. This performance followed a game where the Falcons put up 576 yards on the 25th ranked Tennessee Volunteers.
An opening 15 minutes controlled by the Falcons, despite the score, took a sudden swing on the last play of the quarter when the football found the hands of Maryland corner back William Likely. The Terps return man fielded a punt at his own 15-yard line on an over-the-shoulder catch, made a few Bowling Green defenders miss and took the ball 85 yards the other way for a touchdown. The touchdown for Likely came one week after winning Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against Richmond where he had 233 return yards including another punt return score.
Bowling Green answered on the following possession, moving 80 yards in just over three minutes resulting in Matt Johnson’s first touchdown pass of the afternoon, a shovel pass to Derek Lee from five yards out. However, the Falcons failed to convert on a two-point try and trailed the Terps 10-6 after the drive.
Perry Hills led Maryland on the next drive, rushing 36 yards into the Bowling Green red zone before having to settle for another field goal to stretch their lead to seven. Hills, who went 15-30 with 168 yards and two touchdowns, led the Terrapins in rushing with eight carries for 94 yards on the day.
The half ended with the Terps leading 13-6 and then the weather made an appearance. Fans at Byrd Stadium were asked to leave as the game was delayed for 55 minutes due to inclement weather; and after that, it was a whole new game.
Both teams exchanged scoreless drives after Bowling Green missed another close field goal on the first possession of the half. Then the Falcons began their aerial assault on the Terps. Matt Johnson hit receiver Roger Lewis on a 58-yard touchdown strike to tie the game at 13. Lewis tore apart the Maryland defense on Saturday, catching 15 passes for 200 yards and two trips to the end zone.
Perry Hills hit D.J. Moore on a 42-yard catch and run touchdown to give Maryland the lead on the next possession, the first career score for Moore. But Travis Greene and the Falcons answered back on the next drive, capitalizing off of a Will Likely muffed punt and scoring on a three-yard run to tie the game at 20. Greene and fellow Falcons’ running back Fred Coppet combined for a huge day against the Terps, collectively rushing for 174 yards.
With the score still tied late in the third quarter, Brad Craddock pinned the Bowling Green offense at the one-yard line, seemingly a big momentum swing towards the Terrapins. Well, not quite. The Falcons drove 99 yards on 17 plays ending in a Matt Johnson touchdown pass to re-take the lead in the beginning of the fourth quarter. From this point, the rout was on.
Perry Hills tied the game for Maryland with a 22-yard touchdown to Levern Jacobs on the next drive, but the Terps’ final three possessions all ended in interceptions as Hills was benched for Caleb Rowe with just under eight minutes left in the game.
On the other side, Matt Johnson and the Falcons unleashed their relentless passing attack on the Terrapin defense. Johnson threw for three more touchdowns in the final nine minutes of the game as Bowling Green scored 28 fourth quarter points to pull away for good from the Terps.
Maryland will try to rebound from this poor performance next Saturday when they host South Florida. While Bowling Green will try to build on a big win over a Power-5 conference opponent as they host Memphis next week.