The Maryland football team took one of its worst losses in years on Saturday, falling to Bowling Green, 48-27, before a sparse crowd at Byrd Stadium.
The Terps allowed 692 yards of total offense against their MAC visitors, losing a couple of one-touchdown leads to fall by three scores. A 55-minute inclement weather delay prolonged a four-and-a-half-hour game.
Will Likely had an 85-yard punt return touchdown for Maryland, one of precious few bright spots. The Terrapins fell to 1-1, getting poor performances from multiple quarterbacks in the process. Entering as 7.5-point favorites, they were obliterated.
Maryland's offense underwhelmed from the get-go. The Terps put together a few abbreviated scoring drives that ended with Brad Craddock field goals, but the only first-half touchdown beyond that came courtesy of Likely's long return. The Terrapin offense didn't mount a drive longer than 52 yards or eight plays, even against a defense that let up 59 points and 400 rushing yards last weekend. Maryland's most substantial source of offense was 82 yards on six quarterback keepers from Hills, who exploited openings in the middle of Bowling Green's defense to get free.
Then came the 55-minute weather delay, after which Maryland didn't look sharp. Bowling Green got a 55-yard touchdown from Johnson to Roger Lewis, who beat Sean Davis to the end zone by several steps. The teams traded scores immediately afterward – D.J. Moore for Maryland and Travis Greene for Bowling Green, after a Likely muffed punt. Maryland mostly wasted a Jalen Brooks interception at the BGSU 40-yard line, going three-and-out after a questionable out of bounds call on a Moore catch attempt.
After that, Craddock, making an unusual punting cameo, kicked a ball that was downed at Bowling Green's 1-yard line. And then Maryland's defense, maybe gassed from defending more than 70 plays from the fast-paced Falcons, fell apart. Johnson stewarded Bowling Green's offense methodically downfield. By the time he found Ryan Burbrink in the back of the end zone to make the score 27-20, Bowling Green's drive was 99 yards across 18 plays in 5:23. No lie.
Maryland mounted an eight-play, 75-yard response drive from there, culminating in a 22-yard strike from Hills to Levern Jacobs. It came after Maryland had been stopped on third down deep inside its own half, but a Bowling Green defender was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Terps' offense, for the first time all day, took advantage of the opportunity
But Maryland's defense still had to come back on the field. It took Bowling Green all of 2:33 to get back ahead, when Lewis again beat Davis deep for a 27-yard score. It was a brutal day in one-on-one coverage for Davis. Bowling Green added another touchdown on its next drive – another deep ball – and then Caleb Rowe, upon replacing Hills at quarterback, threw an interception on his very first play. Then Bowling Green scored again, and things were off the rails. Rowe threw another interception later, when the game was well out of hand.
Maryland lost by 21 points. The play was more lopsided than that.
Three things to know
1. Maryland's running game declined. Hills and Wes Brown had big gainers on designed running plays early, but most of the Terps' limited successes on the ground came from happenstance Hills scrambles where Bowling Green simply lost containment. That's not going to happen much against opponents like West Virginia or anyone in the Big Ten. For Maryland to reliably move the ball against those teams, the offensive line needs to get push, and Brandon Ross needs to hit holes hard. Those things didn't happen against Bowling Green, which was a bottom-of-the-country run defense last year and looked in its opener to be just as bad this year.
2. Special teams were strong again, unless they weren't. The presence of Likely and Craddock may well give Maryland the best punt returner and kicker in college football, bar nobody. I'm out of superlatives for Likely, whose 85-yard score would have been thrilling if it weren't so predictable to everyone but Richmond special teams coach Tom Kaufman, who irrationally didn't have his punter send the ball into the bleachers. Likely's day was, unfortunately, a bit tempered when he muffed a punt that led to a Richmond score in the third quarter. Craddock had a few hiccups in his first game, but he put through two more field goals and a handful of touchbacks on Saturday. Unfortunately, teams need more than good kickers – and good returners – to win football games.
3. Maryland is bad. Since before this season started, the best hope for Maryland in 2015 was somewhere around a 6-6 record. That was predicated, based on a tough Big Ten East, on Maryland not losing any of its first three out-of-conference games at home. Well, that's out the window. And the Terps didn't just lose on Saturday. They were obliterated, by a mid-major opponent on their own field. There are a great many flaws to this iteration of the Maryland football team – and also some excellent individual players – but this looks like a solidly below average team. Maybe it will change. But we need to deal in probabilities, and it probably won't.