Maryland football travels to Bowling Green on Saturday for the Terrapins’ Week 2 matchup. These teams don’t have an extensive history, but what they do have is juicy.
Bowling Green came to College Park in 2015 and blasted the Terps in a 48-27 nightmare blowout.
The Falcons came to Maryland as a 7.5-point underdog in the first-ever meeting between the two teams, but were only seven spots behind the Terps in F/+ rankings. This was never going to be an easy W for Maryland, but it ended up playing out worse than fans could have hoped.
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.
It was a dark day for the Terps. Pete Volk outlined the dread of watching a team get pounded by Bowling Green while Ohio State and Michigan loomed on the schedule, all in Year 5 of Edsall’s tenure:
In Year 5 of Randy Edsall, the Terrapins have no passing game to speak of (and yet insist on relying on it regularly) and make too many mistakes to win with their ultra-conservative style. When faced with an up-and-coming forward-thinking coach in Bowling Green’s Dino Babers, one thing was clear: Edsall and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley were overmatched.
With Maryland’s defenders playing deeper in coverage due to Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson’s ability to sling it down the field, the Falcons focused almost entirely on quick passes to get the ball to playmakers like Roger Lewis (15 receptions, 200 yards) in space. Bowling Green also ran the ball nearly as much as it passed (55 pass attempts, 50 rushes), averaging 4.0 yards per carry, and the variety of playcalling combined with the Falcons’ frenetic pace kept the defense guessing.
Meanwhile, Maryland’s offense was an absolute trainwreck, once again.
Bowling Green ended up ranking 23rd in S&P+ by the end of the season, and head coach Dino Babers left for Syracuse. That makes this one loss a bit more excusable that it appeared at the time, but losing by 21 to a MAC team at home still brings the kind of stink that just doesn’t wash off.
That loss to Bowling Green played a part in Randy Edsall’s exit from Maryland.
Since-departed athletic director Kevin Anderson confirmed as much at a press conference after Edsall’s firing.
“It started back [after] the second game of the season and looked at how we played,” Anderson told reporters, “and how we didn’t show sign of progress in the way we were losing really brought this to my attention that this really needed to be addressed.”
A blowout loss to West Virginia did too, as did the lack of progress toward competing in the Big Ten under Edsall. But this loss was viewed as an egregious offense, even if the Falcons ended up being real good that season:
Anderson didn’t exactly give Edsall a pep talk.
”It was more, ‘Get this turned around — quick,’” said a source familiar with Anderson’s message.
And oh right, DJ Durkin played and coached at Bowling Green.
DJ Durkin won’t be on the sidelines for this one. Matt Canada will, as Maryland’s interim head coach while the school continues two investigations into the program’s conduct toward players and its role in Jordan McNair’s death.
But Durkin’s history with Bowling Green runs deep. He was a four-year starter and two-year captain as a defensive end and outside linebacker for the Falcons from 1996-2000. He was a graduate assistant for the program for two years after that under Urban Meyer (yep) and returned to Bowling Green after two more graduate assistant years at Notre Dame for his first full-time coaching gig as the team’s defensive ends coach.
This storyline would have been given some more wattage in a timeline where Durkin wasn’t on leave as those investigations into his program continue.
Both teams enter 2018’s game under entirely different circumstances, but a Maryland coaching change might follow their meeting this time too.
If Bowling Green is on the rise in Year 3 under Mike Jinks, Week 1 didn’t provide much proof. A 58-24 loss to Oregon might not tell us too much about the Falcons, or it could be an indication that they’re not ready for a surge yet. They don’t seem primed for a 2015-level rise, though that’s the kind of thing that can be hard to predict.
Independent of what happens on the field, though, Bowling Green could once again be one of the final opponents Maryland plays with its head coach still employed.
Almost no matter what the investigations do or don’t turn up, Durkin seems unlikely to return as Maryland’s head coach. And if Maryland continues to succeed without him, one could envision a scenario where the school and high-level donors decide fighting to keep the coach who’s accused of verbal abuse and an over-the-line approach to his players isn’t worth it when they’re winning games with Canada in charge.
Maryland’s investigation into the team’s training and player safety protocols is expected back by Sept. 15. The university system’s larger investigation into the allegations laid out in the ESPN story has no specified due date.