As he watched film of Bowling Green's offense in preparation of Saturday's matchup, one thing caught Maryland middle linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr.'s eye: Speed.
In one 90-second segment of the Falcons' 59-30 loss to Tennessee last week, Carter watched Bowling Green run six plays. That's an average of 15 seconds per play, making any substitutions and getting back to the line of scrimmage for the next snap a challenge. The Falcons ran 85 plays and rolled up 557 yards against a talented Southeastern Conference squad in the Volunteers.
Bowling Green brings that up-tempo offense to Byrd Stadium in what could be a stiff test at breakneck speed for a revamped Maryland defense coming off a dominant performance a week ago. And after handling Richmond a week ago, the Falcons are set to provide the Terps with a different, dangerous look.
"They're a very efficient offense," defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson said. "They get it rolling, and if they see something, they're going to keep attacking it. We have to be very accountable this week. You have to be in your right spots because you can get gashed, through the air or through the ground. … We have to man up."
This week, Maryland's coaching staff has been preaching awareness to its defense. Carter said he also saw plays on film where Tennessee's defense didn't line up properly before Bowling Green snapped the ball, which led to big plays. During practice, the scout team — led by freshman quarterback Gage Shaffer, the scout team player of the week for offense — has been pushing the tempo and force the defense to be ready on the fly by simulating Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson.
Bowling Green's spread attack also brings a variety of looks. Defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski said he saw the Falcons bring out multiple personnel groupings and then show all different play calls. There's an element of unpredictability in Bowling Green's offense because there aren't set packages for every down.
Any type of play — short run, long run, short pass, long pass — can come from any formation.
"These guys, it makes you a little nervous because you just never know what you're going to get on those downs," Dudzinski said. "They're going to come out in special sets, they're going to have a new wrinkle or a trick play or something along those lines."
While the defense expects to have its hands full with Johnson and wide receivers Gehrig Dieter, Ronnie Moore, Roger Lewis, and Ryan Burbink, Maryland's offense has an opportunity to build off its productive performance in the opener. Tennessee put up 604 yards of offense on Bowling Green, including 399 yards and six touchdowns.
Terps running back Brandon Ross rushed for a career-high 150 yards against Richmond and Wes Brown added 74 more, and the Terps averaged 7.6 yards per carry as a team. Maryland's offensive line had its way with Richmond, but Brown said both sides will have adjustments to make.
"We'll have that type of success as long as we continue to work hard at practice and do what we got to do on the outside of the ball," Brown said. "They can change up what they did based on our game plan from last week and what they saw. All we can do is go in and expect to see what we see on film and adjust to it."
With Bowling Green moving at a breakneck pace and Maryland using the no-huddle offense it had success with last week, both teams have the chance to put up points. And Maryland knows that some of last week's red zone shortcomings could be detrimental if it repeats them this weekend in what is sure to be an up-tempo affair.
"We definitely have to be able to drive the ball down the field and we don't want field goals, we want touchdowns," quarterback Perry Hills said. "That's going to be our big emphasis for this week is getting the ball in the end zone and scoring because they're such a fast-paced offense, so we're going to have to put points on the board."
Maryland offense vs. Bowling Green defense: The Terps are coming off one of their best rushing performances in more than a decade after putting up 341 yards against Richmond. Senior running back Brandon Ross rushed for a career-high 150 yards while junior Wes Brown (74 yards) and freshman Ty Johnson (83 yards) each chipped in. And they're going to face a Falcons defense that gave up 399 yards in a 59-30 loss to Tennessee last week. The Volunteers had two running backs with more than 100 yards and averaged more than six yards per carry. The Maryland offensive line is noticeably bigger, and that could play a part again Saturday.
Maryland defense vs. Bowling Green offense: The Falcons ran 85 plays and totaled 557 total yards against the Volunteers in a losing effort, and they should provide the Terps with their first stiff test of the season. Senior quarterback Matt Johnson threw for 424 yards and two touchdows, and his favorite target was junior Gehrig Dieter (seven catches, 133 yards, one touchdown). At 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, Dieter is a big target for Johnson, and he's joined by senior Ryan Burbink, junior Ronnie Moore and sophomore Roger Lewis on the outside as a dangerous quartet of receivers. The Maryland secondary is full of veterans, but Bowling Green will provide an early challenge before the Terps see some other talented aerial attacks later on this year.