Maryland defense expects challenge from Bowling Green


By David Ginsburg - AP Sports Writer



COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Coming off a 50-point scoring spree against Richmond, Maryland faces a Bowling Green defense that yielded 59 points and 604 yards to Tennessee.

That doesn’t necessary mean the Terrapins are already counting on being 2-0 by Saturday evening.

In that 59-30 loss last week, Bowling Green amassed 557 yards in offense and trailed by only 12 points late in the third quarter. Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson went 27 for 49 for a career-high 424 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception.

It’s an up-tempo attack that could spell trouble for a Maryland defense that is still adjusting to the new 4-3 alignment incorporated by coordinator Keith Dudzinski.

“The numbers speak for themselves with what they do,” Dudzinski said. “Eighty-five plays, 500 plus yards against Tennessee. The guys are well aware of what the challenge is.”

The folks working the chains on the sideline Saturday might be winded by the second quarter. After surrendering 29 first downs and 399 yards rushing to the Volunteers, Bowling Green is going up against a Maryland attack that amassed 341 yards on the ground against Richmond, including a career-high 150 from Brandon Ross.

“Their running game is really good, and that running back is probably their best offensive player,” Falcons coach Dino Babers said.

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Some things to know about the Bowling Green-Maryland matchup:

UP HILLS BATTLE: Terrapins quarterback Perry Hills received his first start since 2012 last week, going 12 for 21 for 138 yards and two touchdowns. But he threw an interception and was admittedly tentative in delivering passes to his receivers. “I have to make sure not to aim the ball as much as I did,” Hills said. If the Falcons stack the line, Hills must make them pay. “That’s where your passing game has to step up and maybe open up the running game,” coach Randy Edsall said.

KICKING DUEL: Brad Craddock of Maryland and Bowling Green’s Tyler Tate are both on the Lou Groza Award watch list. The trophy, which goes to the best placekicker in the country, went to Craddock last year. Tate, meanwhile, has a school-record 51 field goals over his career and last week connected from 40, 37 and 25 yards out. He also forced four touchbacks on kickoffs, which is essential with playmaker Will Likely as Maryland’s deep man.

LIKELY TO SUCCEED: Likely set a Big Ten record last week for punt return yardage, totaling 233 yards and scoring a touchdown against the Spiders. “Likely is not only a dangerous punt returner, but a very good corner,” Babers said. Bowling Green would be wise to kick away from the 5-foot-7 speedster, or at least boot the ball high enough to force him to make a fair catch. “I can’t go out there and force anything,” Likely said. “If I have to take a fair catch, it’s going to be a fair catch.”

HAPPY RETURN: Johnson showed absolutely no rust last weekend, piercing Tennessee’s defense after missing the final 13 games of the 2014 season with a hip injury. He made a huge impression on the Terrapins during their film session. “Matt Johnson is a really good quarterback,” Edsall said. “You can tell by watching the tape that he understands their offense very well and knows where to go with the ball.”

STRANGERS ON THE FIELD: This is the first meeting between the schools, but Bowling Green knows a little bit about facing a Big Ten opponent. Hosting Indiana last year, the Falcons pulled off a 45-42 upset. But Bowling Green hasn’t been a Power Five school on the road since 2008, at Pittsburgh.

By David Ginsburg

AP Sports Writer

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