Maryland came to Bowling Green on Saturday night trying to show that last week’s season-opening win over then-No. 23 Texas was not an emotion-fueled fluke.
The Terps left Doyt L. Perry Stadium with a 45-14 victory over the Falcons, knowing they need to play a lot smarter if they don’t want the team’s third straight 2-0 start to derail quickly.
“Really happy for our players, I thought they showed a great determination to finish the game,” Maryland interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. “Obviously we were down 14-10 at half for a multitude of reasons.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot with some penalties and just some things we can’t do. Those are disappointing and we’re going to talk about them tomorrow. The positive part is that we celebrate every win. We’re going to celebrate the win tonight. … Every win is a big win.”
The Terps seemed to wake up in the second half, taking their first lead of the game on a 22-yard catch, spin and run by senior wide receiver Jahrvis Davenport late in the third quarter. That started a string of 35 unanswered second-half points.
“It was big, to finally get the lead, because we certainly messed around long enough before we got there,” Canada said.
The message at halftime was simple.
“At halftime, we came and said, ‘We’ve got to chill out. We’ve got to keep playing. Penalties are going to happen because we’re playing hard, but just keep going,’ ” senior running back Ty Johnson said.
Johnson, who gained just 30 yards on 11 carries in last week’s win over the Longhorns, rushed for 124 yards on 12 attempts with one touchdown. Sophomore Tayon-Fleet Davis added 102 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns, while junior Lorenzo Harrison III added 86 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Maryland (2-0), which was held to just 143 rushing yards on 46 attempts against Texas, finished with 444 yards on 53 carries against the Falcons, who had just 15 rushing yards on 28 carries.
“It’s good getting everybody going,” Canada said. “We’ve got a very good group of running backs. I was excited for Lo [Harrison] to get in there. He had some big runs. [Anthony] McFarland had some big runs. Fleet had some big runs. Obviously Ty did. They all ran pretty well.”
It was a quiet night for redshirt freshman quarterback Kasim Hill. After completing 17 of 29 passes for 222 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown to true freshman Jeshaun Jones, the former Gilman star completed just eight of 16 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown Saturday. Most of the second half was spent handing off to his running backs.
“We didn’t throw it. We probably could have at times,” Canada said. “It’s hard to call a pass when you’re gaining what we were gaining a carry. It’s hard to throw and see what’s going to happen when you feel pretty good that you know what’s going to happen when you hand it off.”
Asked if he started feeling like himself, Johnson smiled.
“Yes, sir. Waiting for the big plays to come, waiting for the runs to come,” Johnson said. “Last week, the defense kind of stopped us. This week, we knew we had a chance, all the running backs, the O-line, we could block some schemes up.”
As they did before their game against the Longhorns, the Terps carried Jordan McNair’s jersey out for the opening coin toss to honor the offensive lineman who died in June after suffering heatstroke.
But for more than a half, Maryland’s emotions resulted in a bunch of unsportsmanlike penalties at inopportune times.
“We always think about Jordan, no matter what,” Johnson said. “We definitely came into the game thinking about Jordan. Sometimes some other players from the other team will get in our guys’ heads just because, but I think it was about Jordan the whole time.”
When the penalties stopped, the Terps got going. After being called for nine penalties for 79 yards in the first half — more than Maryland was whistled for against Texas — and four more for another 45 yards in the third quarter, the only penalty in the fourth quarter was on offensive tackle Derwin Gray.
It came after a 9-yard touchdown by Fleet-Davis, when Gray was called for “excessive celebrating with fans.” Asked if he has ever seen a call like that made, a bemused Canada said, “I haven’t, but I’m not surprised it happened tonight.”
The second-half outburst was the reverse of what happened three years ago against the Falcons (0-2) in College Park, when the Terps watched a 13-6 halftime lead disintegrate into a 48-27 loss to Bowling Green.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Johnson said.
This time, Maryland outscored Bowling Green 35-0 in the second half.
Johnson recalled how Canada had asked the team how many players were left from the 2015 team that suffered the embarrassing loss, one that eventually led to the midseason firing of Randy Edsall.
“He said, ‘I know you guys want to get your revenge and stuff, but all in all we just want to play for Jordan and come out with a W,’ ” Johnson said.
The Terps, who will continuing honoring their late teammate with their home opener looming next Saturday against Temple, will take the lesson they learned at Bowling Green as they move forward with the season.
“We’ve got to treat every single week the same,” Johnson said. “Just because we’re in Bowling Green, Ohio, doesn’t mean anything. You treat every opponent the same: with as much respect as possible. They’re a good team. Treat every game the same.”