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Maryland football has some demons to exorcise against Bowling Green

Even a win in the rematch wouldn’t fully close the wounds of the 2015 loss.

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

After upsetting Texas to start its 2018 season, Maryland football heads on the road to take on Bowling Green.

Just like the first matchup, this looks like a win for Maryland on paper. Bowling Green was projected to finish fifth in the MAC Eastern Division and got crushed by No. 24 Oregon, 58-24, in its season opener.

It’s part of a three-game series with the Falcons. The Terps hosted Bowling Green in 2015, travel there this weekend and will host the Falcons in 2024.

Three years ago, Bowling Green scored 42 second half points in a 48-27 win. Let’s take a look back and see what it could mean for this weekend.

The 2015 game looked to be going according to plan early on.

The game started off normal enough, with Brad Craddock hitting a 41-yard field goal after a Maryland drive stalled inside the 30. The Falcons missed a 27-yard field goal on their first drive, and turned it over on downs on their next series. The Terps forced Bowling Green into a three-and-out after that, and the Falcons made the mistake of kicking to Will Likely, who returned the punt 85 yards for a touchdown.

Maryland led 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, but cracks started to show in the second.

After the Likely touchdown, the Falcons went 82 yards in 10 plays to cut the lead to 10-6. Maryland answered back with a field goal, but struggled to move the ball after starting the possession near midfield. Bowling Green turned it over on downs on its final possession before the half, missing out on another scoring opportunity. The Terps led 13-6 at halftime, and were lucky to lead by that much.

Then came the weather delay.

During halftime, the school announced the game was being delayed due to severe weather in the area. Everyone evacuated the stadium, and the game resumed nearly an hour later. Most fans did not return (though I was one of the few students who did).

After the delay was a disaster.

Bowling Green got into field goal range thanks for a 64-yard catch and run on its first play of the second half, only for kicker Tyler Tate to miss again. The Falcons would only punt once for the rest of the game.

Quarterback Matt Johnson found Roger Lewis for a 58-yard touchdown on Bowling Green’s next drive to tie the game, and Maryland retook the lead on the next possession. The Terps then forced a three-and-out, only for Likely to muff the punt. The Falcons tied the game at 20 four plays later.

After going three-and-out, Jalen Brooks intercepted a Johnson pass at the Bowling Green 40-yard line, but Maryland couldn’t capitalize. Craddock pinned the Falcons at their own one-yard line, and things only went down hill from there. Bowling Green methodically drove down the field in 17 plays for a go-ahead touchdown. Maryland tied the game on its next possession, and that was the last good thing that happened for the Terps.

Bowling Green scored touchdowns on its last three drives, and Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe combined for three interception on Maryland’s final three possessions.

The final stats are even more egregious.

The Falcons had 692 yards on offense that day. Johnson’s six touchdowns tied the Bowling Green record for passing touchdowns in a single game, and his 491 yards are the second-most in a game in team history. The Falcons also ran for over 200 yards, and ran 105 plays compared to just 59 for Maryland.

In those 59 plays, the Terps probably did the opposite of what they needed to do to win. Bowling Green had surrendered 399 yards on the ground the week before, and for whatever reason, the Terps decided not to run the ball. Maryland ran 33 pass plays that day compared to 26 running plays, and even that includes Hills’ multiple quarterback scrambles.

The loss ended up being a little deceiving, but was still unacceptable. While Bowling Green went 10-4 and won the MAC Championship, it shouldn’t have beaten Maryland by 21 points. Randy Edsall’s seat was boiling after this loss, and he was fired less than a month later.

Three years later, things are different.

Following the 2015 season, both schools had to hire new head coaches. Dino Babers took his quick-strike spread offense to Syracuse and Bowling Green hired Texas Tech associate head coach Mike Jinks to replace him. Mike Locksley finished out the 2015 season as interim head coach, and DJ Durkin was hired in the offseason.

Since then, both teams have gone in opposite directions. While Maryland has gone just 11-15, it has made strides in recruiting and looked to be turning the corner before the fallout related to Jordan McNair’s death. The Falcons have declined, going 6-19 in the same timespan.

Even if Maryland wins, though, it won’t be as significant.

Maryland scheduled this series expecting to win all three games. Even with a solid football tradition, Bowling Green is a school that a Power 5 school, at worst, expects to eke out a tight victory against before giving them a sizable check for coming.

This year, Maryland is once again expected to win. The Terps made a statement in a 34-29 win over Texas, and the Falcons showed they still have a long way to go in a loss to Oregon. It’ll be Bowling Green’s home opener, but Maryland won what was basically a road game without the travel last weekend.

If all goes well, we’ll be talking after the game about how the Terps are 2-0. If not, there will be plenty of questions going forward.