COLLEGE PARK — When Bowling Green wide receiver Gehrig Dieter slipped inside of Maryland cornerback Sean Davis to catch a 14-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of the Falcons' 48-27 win over the Terps on Saturday, it was an exclamation mark on a day punctuated by a dangerous aerial assault.

Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson had a career day with 491 yards and six touchdowns on 36 of 55 passing, and the Falcons pounded the Terps secondary during a rainy afternoon at Byrd Stadium. Entering the season, the Maryland secondary was one of the most experienced position groups on the team and was seen as a strength, with the front seven undergoing the transition from the 3-4 to defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski's 4-3 defense.


But Johnson and a receiving group of Dieter, Roger Lewis, Ronnie Moore, Robbie Rhodes and Ryan Burbrink were able to overwhelm and expose Maryland's secondary time after time, mostly by focusing on Davis and getting its playmakers the ball in space on short tunnel screens. Plus, the Falcons ran 105 plays, including 55 passes, compared to the Terps' 59.

"Of course you're going to be tired being out there for so long, but we still have to right and push," said defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who had three sacks. "That's what practice is for. We push hard in practice because we have to be prepared for stuff like that in the game."

Davis, who made the move from safety to cornerback in the offseason, was matched up with Lewis, who was Johnson's favorite target Saturday. Lewis finished the game with 15 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns, mostly working with a large cushion from Davis. Johnson threw to Lewis 15 times when he was matched up with Davis, connecting 12 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns. In the three times Johnson and Lewis couldn't connect, Davis was called for pass interference once and Lewis also had a drop.

Lewis also had two long touchdowns against Davis. On the first, Lewis got behind Davis, who appeared to think he had help over the top from safety Anthony Nixon, and Lewis was able to stroll into the end zone. The second was from 27 yards out, when Lewis battled Davis for the score to put Bowling Green up 41-27.

"I haven't had a game like this since high school," Lewis said. "It's not even about me. I have to give it all to my teammates — the guys that get me through the hot summer days grinding at 6 a.m. Matt Johnson was able to spread the love around."

In Bowling Green's season-opening loss to then-No. 25 Tennessee, Dieter starred with seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. But against Maryland, Dieter drew All-Big Ten Conference cornerback Will Likely and was relatively quiet. Johnson targeted Dieter just seven times, and they connected only once — when Dieter was matched up with Davis — for the Falcons' final score.

Despite the 6-foot-3 Dieter's size advantage over the 5-foot-7 Likely, Bowling Green still showed great respect for the Maryland corner's cover ability. Likely was targeted six times and allowed two catches for 26 yards, though he was called for pass interference while matched up with Dieter. Likely also laid a big hit on Rhodes downfield to break up a pass after Rhodes got deep into the secondary in the first quarter.

Players matched up with cornerback Alvin Hill, who made his first start of the season in Maryland's nickel package, were targeted 11 times for nine catches and 105 yards, while safety A.J. Hendy allowed four catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns.

Bowling Green's uptempo, spread attack was designed for its receivers to rack up catches and yardage. Davis often played off the line of scrimmage which allowed for Lewis to get underneath the defense on tunnel screen passes and make catches in space. On one drive late in the second quarter, Davis snuffed out a screen pass to Lewis for no gain.

The Maryland secondary of Davis, Nixon, Hendy, Likely and Hill is one of the most experienced units on the team, and all of them have previous starting experience. But they were worn down by a dangerous Bowling Green passing attack that exploited any weaknesses.

"The thing about our offense is that we are always searching," Bowling Green coach Dino Babers said. "We never look at the end. We're totally locked in on the gask when we're in a game. We saw something and we went after it. That's what we do. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. But we are never going to play us."


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