By: Eddie Hobbs
On a wet and cloudy day in Bowling Green, Ohio, the Maryland Terrapins used a dynamic rushing attack to, eventually, wear down the Falcons defense. Interim head coach Matt Canada entrusted his plethora of running backs with essentially running all over the field, not sticking to just one back in particular. Four running backs busted a run over 30 yards throughout the 45-14 win against Bowling Green.
What goes unnoticed, though, is the way that the experienced Maryland starting offensive line completely dominated over the course of the game. The Terps rushed for 444 yards on Saturday, the most rushing yards since 1999 when Maryland rushed for 445 yards against Virginia. Running lanes don’t just open themselves, and it’s easy to look at the eye-popping stats by the Maryland rushers, but let’s see how the Terps’ O-line made room for the running backs.
On the first play of the game, left tackle Derwin Gray does a great job of using the energy of Bowling Green’s Jonah Harper against him. Harper is trying to get around Gray, and it works to Gray’s advantage as he just takes him completely out of the play. Left guard Sean Christie wins his battle with Josh Croslen and doesn’t let his man shed him to get to Ty Johnson, resulting in a 17-yard chunk.
On Maryland’s next drive, the left side of the line immediately starts to open up a hole as the ball is snapped. Left tackle Derwin Gray is able to get his hands in on his man and does enough to let Lorenzo Harrison through. Left guard Sean Christie gets his shoulder pad into the interior lineman giving center Johnny Jordan an opportunity to assist Christie in creating a double team to seal off the hole, letting Harrison go down the sideline for 38 yards.
Early in the second half, Anthony McFarland received a handoff from Hill. Gray is already moving into his second step before Croslen even gets out of his position. Gray’s footwork here is something that should be emulated by every offensive tackle. He gets to his man, immediately turns him and continues to drive him away from McFarland. The hardest job is left for Jordan and right guard Brendan Moore. Offensive line coach Bryan Stinespring is asking Moore to move across his man and drive him away from the play, which Moore does very well here. Christie moves to the second level and takes care of Brandon Harris, so McFarland can move through traffic.
Here late in the third quarter, Maryland fakes a jet sweep, which was intended to take the attention of Bowling Green’s left edge rusher. Thanks to some shiftiness from Johnson, he makes the tackler miss. Jordan does a nice job of driving his man back about 5 yards and really clearing the way. Right tackle Damian Prince moves up to the second level and takes aim at Kholbe Coleman. Johnson is able to gain 32 yards and sets up Maryland at the 6-yard line.
On a touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, Tayon Fleet-Davis hits the edge and gets just enough room to run inside the pylon. Prince is able to avoid Roland Walder’s attempt to chop him down and moves to the second level. Prince gets a piece of his man and Fleet-Davis’ vision gives him enough time to bounce outside. Tight end Avery Edwards’ block here is the most important one, as he sets the edge for Fleet-Davis’ 9-yard touchdown run.
On Maryland’s final touchdown of the evening, Javon Leake takes it 36 yards untouched for the easy score. At this point, Maryland inserted its backups, but it must be great for the coaches to see the backups maintaining the standard set by the starters. Center Ellis McKennie stays on his man long enough for Leake to creep through the hole. Right guard Spencer Anderson makes quick work of Karl Brooks to set the initial blueprint for Leake. Right tackle Tyran Hunt does an incredible job of getting up to the second level to let Leake move right by him for an easy score to put the cherry on top for Maryland.
Maryland ran 18 plays in the fourth quarter and only attempted one pass in the final period. Further hitting home the point of how well the offensive line performed in the running game. The Terps averaged 8.4 yards per carry and picked up 24 first downs over the course of the game. Even though this was against a Mid-American Conference opponent, it is promising to see because once B1G play comes, controlling the line of scrimmage and holding the majority of possession will be instrumental to winning games.