Last Tuesday, Maryland football interim head coach Matt Canada asked his team if anybody remembered the Terps’ last game against Bowling Green, a 48-27 drubbing in 2015 that, in many ways, spelled the end of coach Randy Edsall’s tenure.
Running back Ty Johnson played special teams in that matchup, and he hadn’t come close to forgetting about it.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Johnson said.
Canada implored his veteran players to channel a sense of revenge three years in the making, and inform the rest of their teammates to not take the lowly Falcons for granted, even after a 2-10 finish last year and a season-opening shellacking at the hands of No. 23 Oregon.
Saturday’s rematch proved to be a reversal of the team’s prior matchup, which featured a tight first half followed by a runaway second half. This time, it was the Terps’ turn for dominance, scoring 38 unanswered points en route to a 45-14 win in Week 2.
And Johnson, now a senior, returned as Maryland’s workhorse back, rushing his way to his ninth career 100-yard game while the Terps compiled 444 yards on the ground.
“[Canada] said, ‘I know you guys want to get your revenge,'” Johnson recalled. “Just because we’re in Bowling Green, Ohio, doesn’t mean anything. We treat every opponent the same. As much respect as possible, they’re a good team.”
Johnson’s revenge seemed two-fold. Against Texas last week, the Longhorns held Johnson to 30 yards on 11 carries. Texas keyed in on stopping the 2017 All-Big Ten ball carrier, and Johnson had trouble finding room between the tackles. That opened space for other players, and Canada’s signature jet sweep gashed the Longhorns time and again.
On Saturday, Johnson paced Maryland with 124 yards — his longest a 32-yard gallop in the second half — and punched in a touchdown. He was part of a four-back tandem that steamrolled through the Falcons’ run defense, each scoring at least one touchdown while posting the most yardage gained on the ground since 1999.
“They came on in the second half swinging,” defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam said. “They were making a lot of good plays. They were driving the ball. It was just a matter of getting the ball in the end zone. At the end of the day, that’s the name of the game.”
Despite the Terps’ 194 rushing yards in the first half, they struggled to separate from Bowling Green before halftime. Penalties derailed some drives, such as midway through the first quarter, when a score from Lorenzo Harrison was wiped off the board due to a chop block, and the Terps trailed by four points at the intermission.
“There was probably some things said at halftime,” Canada said.
In 2015, Bowling Green outscored Maryland by 28 points in the second half, utilizing three straight passing touchdowns late in the game to bury the Terps.
It was Maryland’s rushing attack in the second contest of the home-and-home series that helped upend the Falcons. Bowling Green compiled 15 yards on the ground, including yardage lost from when Falcons quarterback Jarret Doege was sacked five times.
It was hard for Canada to even call passes, given the Terps rushing success. Quarterbacks Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome handed the ball off 53 times. Hill dropped back 16 times. And it was Johnson’s 85 second-half yards that transformed the tight contest into a comfortable win.
“They say, ‘Ty, run the ball.’ That’s what I do, I don’t really do anything except run the ball,” Johnson said. “[The offensive lineman] do all the headbanging and all of that. We just practiced the schemes really well.”
Three years ago, Bowling Green’s victory was instrumental in ending Edsall’s tenure in College Park.
Following a historic rushing display from Maryland, Canada once again repeated what has become a press conference tradition: He’s just the offensive coordinator, despite his interim head coach title.
But it’s undeniable that starting 2-0 in the dominant fashion the Terps have with Canada at the helm helps the 46-year-old’s resume, be it for a permanent job with Maryland, pending the results of DJ Durkin’s administrative leave, or somewhere else.