Rushing attack helps Maryland overcome first half miscues

In its season-opening victory over Texas, Maryland’s highly touted group of running backs was held to just 60 yards on 26 attempts in an upset win over then-No. 23 Texas.

In rainy conditions on Saturday night, the Terps consistently relied upon their talented backfield to overcome a first half mired by penalties and rally for a convincing 45-14 win over Bowling Green at Doyt L. Perry Stadium.

“Last week, the [Texas] defense kinda stopped us,” senior running back Ty Johnson said. “But we knew this week we had the chance, all the running backs, the o-line, we knew we could block some schemes up [and] get the ball rolling.”

The five running backs who saw action against Bowling Green rushed for 423 of the team’s 444 yards on the ground. The success that Maryland saw in their rushing game proved pivotal to withstand difficult throwing conditions and the team’s 14 penalties for 139 yards.

On Maryland’s second offensive series, the rushing attack led Maryland down to Bowling Green’s 27-yard line before two consecutive penalties negated long runs by Lorenzo Harrison. Four penalties on that possession eventually cost the offense their prime scoring opportunity.

That sequence of miscues characterized the opening 30 minutes for the Maryland team, who committed one turnover and were penalized nine times for 75 yards, as they entered halftime trailing 14-10.

“Nothing necessarily changed. Guys just needed to really just focus in,” senior defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam said about the halftime adjustments. “The focus is really what we really honed in on during halftime, the coaches were stressing it.”

With that focus on avoiding those same mistakes in the second half, the third quarter got off to an inauspicious start with the opening kickoff from freshman kicker Joseph Petrino landing out-of-bounds, resulting in yet another yellow marker.

Maryland’s defense forced two Bowling Green punts to begin the second half before a highlight-reel play by Jahrvis Davenport ignited the Terps’ offense.

After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by sophomore center Johnny Jordan pushed the Maryland offense from the Bowling Green 7-yard line to the 22-yard line, the unit seemed poised to squander another scoring opportunity.

However, on a third and goal play from the 22-yard line, Kasim Hill threw a short pass to Davenport on a crossing route. The senior receiver snagged the pass at the 21-yard line, spun out of a tackle at the 18-yard line and finished the play in the endzone to give Maryland their first lead of the night, 17-14, with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter.

The remainder of the game, Hill threw just one pass as the Terps continued to turn to their ground game to put the Falcons away. Following Davenport’s touchdown, Maryland ran the ball 23 times for 171 yards and three touchdowns and four touchdowns as the Terps cruised to a 2-0 start to the season.

On the defensive side of the ball, Maryland held Bowling Green’s offense– which racked up 389 yards and 24 points against Oregon a week ago– to just 159 total yards and 14 points, all of which came in the opening half. Compared to Maryland’s eye-opening output on the ground, Bowling Green mustered just 15 yards rushing of their own.

“I think our defensive players are doing a tremendous job of playing with passion,” head coach Matt Canada said. “Our defensive players are doing a great job, our defensive staff are doing a great job.”

Maryland’s 444 rushing yards marked the first time since 2016 that the team eclipsed the 400-yard clip on the ground. Johnson paced the running back group with 124 yards and a touchdown, while Tayon Fleet-Davis scored two touchdowns and gained 102 yards. Lorenzo Harrison wasn’t far behind with 89 yards.

Redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland added 69 rushing yards and was the team’s leading receiver with 53 receiving yards. In the late stages of the game, sophomore Javon Leake accumulated 42 yards, including a 36-yard jaunt to the endzone.

“I thought our backs ran really hard. We blocked them really well,” Canada said. “It’s hard to call a pass when you’re gaining [8.4 yards] per carry. So it’s hard to think about throwing it and seeing what’s going to happen when you feel pretty good what’s going to happen when you hand it off.”