BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Yet again, penalties seemed to ruin a promising drive from Maryland football.
After making it to Bowling Green’s 7-yard line late in the third quarter, the Terps had drawn flags for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct, backing them up to the 22. Interim head coach Matt Canada’s team accumulated 14 penalties for 139 yards on the day, allowing the Falcons to hang around on their home field.
But this time, Maryland didn’t forfeit its drive prematurely. On third-and-goal from the 22, quarterback Kasim Hill threw across the middle to wide receiver Jahrvis Davenport, who spun around a defender and bolted to the end zone to give the Terps their first lead of the game.
Crippled by penalties throughout the first half, interim head coach Matt Canada’s team didn’t clean up its play much as the game progressed. But the Terps dominated on offense to overcome a sloppy start, running for 444 yards and scoring 38 unanswered points in their 45-14 win at Doyt L. Perry Stadium on Saturday night.
“It was big to finally get the lead because we certainly messed around long enough before we got there,” Canada said. “Our backs ran really hard. I thought our kids up front, when we were all going in the right direction, played really well.”
Despite gashing the Falcons’ run defense throughout the first half, the Terps (2-0) couldn’t find an antidote for drive-shredding penalties.
Midway through the first quarter, running back Lorenzo Harrison thought he’d put Maryland on the board with a 21-yard touchdown run. But as he sprinted into the endzone, he turned to see a yellow flag resting on the field for the second straight play.
A chop block from offensive lineman Brendan Moore had canceled out Harrison’s score, one play after offensive lineman Johnny Jordan’s block in the back wiped away the junior’s 16-yard carry. Two more penalties put the Terps in reverse, drove them out of field goal range and forced them to punt.
On Bowling Green’s subsequent drive, the team marched down the field and scored the first touchdown of the game with help from a facemask and holding penalty.
“In any football game, penalties are going to kill you,” defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam said. “Obviously, when the penalties started dying down, we started focusing up. That’s when we really started getting our momentum going.”
Harrison ran for a touchdown to even the score, but with time winding down in the first half, Falcons quarterback Jarret Doege found wide receiver Quintin Morris wide open for a score. The Terps went into the locker room trailing 14-10.
In the second half, though, Maryland took advantage of its dominance on the ground. Last year, Bowling Green finished with the fourth-worst rush defense in the FBS, and the team allowed five yards per carry in its season opener against Oregon.
So after Hill’s touchdown throw in the third, Canada opted to hand the ball off again and again. Running back Tayon Fleet-Davis punched in two touchdowns, and Ty Johnson added another. Then, with about three minutes remaining, Javon Leake ran for a 36-yard score to ice the win. Johnson paced Maryland with 124 yards, while Fleet-Davis supplied 102.
“We didn’t throw it. We probably could’ve at times,” Canada said. “It’s hard to think about throwing it and seeing what’s going to happen when you feel pretty good about what’s going to happen when you hand it off.”
The game could’ve been a triumphant homecoming for coach DJ Durkin, who played for Bowling Green from 1997 to 2000 and started his coaching career with the Falcons after graduating in 2001.
Instead, it was Canada who led Maryland to victory, as Durkin remains on administrative leave in the wake of offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s death and reports of a toxic team culture.
In the south corner of the stadium postgame, the Terps met their traveling support. The flag with McNair’s No. 79 was flying, and the rain was plummeting down as Maryland progressed to 2-0.
“He lives within all of us,” Johnson said. “No matter who’s carrying that flag, you’ll see that 79 waving in the air.”