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Behind enemy lines: Q&A with Hustle Belt ahead of Maryland-Bowling Green

Get to know the Falcons a little better.

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

Maryland football plays Bowling Green Saturday for the second leg of a three-game series that started in 2015 and will end in College Park in 2024. The Falcons pulled away from the Terps in the first meeting, so Maryland will be looking for some revenge.

College football teams change a lot in three years, so we brought in Randy Carpenter, who writes about Bowling Green for Hustle Belt, SB Nation’s MAC blog. A corresponding Q&A should be on their site later this week.

Testudo Times: Bowling Green is best known around these parts for dismantling Maryland 48-27 in 2015. The Falcons went 10-4 that year but are 6-18 since Dino Babers left. What’s the shape of the program looking like right now?

Hustle Belt: When Babers left for Syracuse, Bowling Green took a chance and hired Mike Jinks with no college head coaching experience and only three years of college coaching experience in total at Texas Tech. He had been a highly successful high school coach in Texas prior to his years with the Red Raiders. The AD that made the hire is no longer at Bowling Green.

Jinks has struggled some in learning how to run a program as the top guy. He’s won only six games the last two years and there is pressure on him to show some progress in this his third year. Truth be told, Babers didn’t exactly leave the cupboard stocked when he left. He rode a very talented senior class to the 2015 Mid-American Conference championship and parlayed it into the opportunity at Syracuse.

There is some optimism around the program this year based on Jinks having put top five MAC recruiting classes together the last couple of years. We saw that start to pay dividends as the Falcons started true freshmen at quarterback and running back most of last year. Those recruits are starting to mature and have the Falcons fans hopeful. Jinks better hope so, or he might not see the final two years on his contract.

TT: Which players (if any) would Maryland fans remember from the last matchup between these teams?

HB: Not many are left from that game at Maryland. Senior linebacker Brandon Harris (6’4”, 220 lbs.) played in that game as a freshman and has developed into the leader on this year’s defense. He led the team with seven tackles against Oregon.

Senior defensive back Clint Stephens played in that 2015 game and had an interception. He tore an ACL in 2016 and missed the entire season. He came back last year and started seven games but really didn’t look like his old self. He seems to be back to full go now that its been almost two year since the injury. He’ll be starting on Saturday.

There are a couple of others that were on the team in 2015 but didn’t see the field that day. Terrapin fans probably remember former Falcon quarterback Matt Johnson, who was the MAC Player of the Year in 2015 and threw six touchdowns in that game, and wide receivers Gherig Deter and Roger Lewis from that 2015 game. Dieter is currently with the Kansas City Chiefs and Lewis spent the last two years with the New York Giants. That team was an offensive juggernaut.

TT: Quarterback Jarret Doege and running back Andrew Clair saw key roles as freshmen. How did they look in the first game of their sophomore years?

HB: They both played well on the big stage. Clair ran for 113 yards on 25 carries and caught a touchdown pass. He showed some ability to break tackles and a very good Oregon defense had trouble controlling him. He has the chance to be very special by the time he’s done at Bowling Green.

Doege was 22-of-38 passing for 253 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He was very effective in the first half. Oregon made some adjustments in the second half and generated a good pass rush that didn’t give him much time to work with. But he stayed cool and calm and made some nice throws to keep the chains moving, especially in the first half. If the Falcons can keep him upright, Doege should be able to put some points on the board in any game.

TT: The Falcons jumped out to a 10-0 lead over Oregon before falling 58-24 in Week 1. What else stood out to you (good and bad) from that game?

HB: The good was the offense. The Falcons were able to gain nearly 400 yards of total offense in the game against Oregon. Both true sophomores played well, as did senior wide receiver Scott Miller. He caught 13 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted by Doege an incredible 20 times in the game. Listed at 5’11” and 166 pounds, you worry about how he can carry that big of a load each week. The rest of the Falcons receiving core is very young and inexperienced for the most part.

The bad was the defense. The Falcons have quite a few defections on the defensive side of the ball from last year due to transfers, injuries and suspensions. There are a lot of true freshman and red-shirt freshman that appear on the Falcon defense two-deep roster. They hired a new defensive coordinator in Carl Pelini, who spent time as DC at Nebraska, but it will take awhile for players to learn his system.

The big play is what killed the Falcons against Oregon. The Ducks scored 37 unanswered points last Saturday and had touchdowns of 40, 44, 83 and 48 yards. The Falcons only hope against the Terrapins is to outscore them.

TT: What would a win Saturday mean for this program going forward?

HB: The Falcons just need a win period. They have been so hard to come by the last few years. Having Oregon, Maryland and Georgia Tech on your non-conference schedule doesn’t exactly set you up for success. If they were to pull off an upset against one of those teams, you might think it would come against the Terrapins since the Falcons play them at home.

A win would give the Falcons some momentum heading into the MAC portion of their schedule. A win against Maryland and another against Eastern Kentucky would make the Falcons 2-2 heading into conference play. That would be a huge confidence builder for a young team. And it might go a long way in Jinks turning this thing around.

TT: Complete this sentence: _____ will win because _____.

HB: Maryland will win because they will be too big and physical for the undersized Falcons’ defense and the BG offense won’t be able to score enough to keep pace.