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Falcons' defense starts well, but bows in second half

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BOWLING GREEN — For 25 minutes, Bowling Green held an opponent — a Big Ten one, no less — scoreless.

It was the Falcons’ best stretch of defense in more than a year.

For the duration of the 2017 season, there was no 25-minute stretch in which Bowling Green held an opponent without a point.

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Bowling Green's Jerry McBride III left, attempts to take down Maryland's Kasim Hill on Saturday at Doyt Perry Stadium.

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It was a flicker of hope for a unit undergoing a complete overhaul, but the end result showed there still is much to do.

Stout for a half, Bowling Green’s defense bowed in the second half to Maryland’s power-running attack in a 45-14 defeat Saturday at Doyt Perry Stadium. Maryland racked up 444 yards on the ground with an average of 8.4 yards per carry.

Through two losses to Power Five opponents, Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks said he thinks his defense will compete this season.

But there was no denying the Falcons were ground down by Maryland’s offense by the end of Saturday.

“They stayed on the field too long and kind of wore down a little bit,” Jinks said.

Maryland ran for five touchdowns, and two running backs — Ty Johnson and Tayon Fleet-Davis — surpassed the 100-yard mark in the game.

Despite committing 14 penalties for 139 yards, the Terrapins were able to ride their offensive line to what became a comfortable victory.

“All credit to Maryland — they were physical,” safety Jerry McBride III said. “I felt like in the first half, we were really physical with them, we were changing the line of scrimmage, we were making plays.”

The Falcons’ offense didn’t help the cause. In seven second-half possessions, BG gained two first downs and did not score.

While Maryland wore down BG’s defense, the Falcons’ offense wasn’t able to return the favor to Maryland’s defense.

“We wanted to be aggressive. When we’re not able to run the ball and we’re not able to sustain those drives and get first downs, those guys are fresh,” Jinks said. “That’s kind of the key to when we want to open up and hit some explosive plays.”

Maryland, in the end, had little reason to deviate from what worked. The Terrapins ran 69 plays in the game, 53 of which were runs.

“We knew what was coming, and we just couldn’t stop it,” McBride said. “That’s where somebody has to make a play. Somebody has to come in, make a difference, boost our morale, get a stop, and get us off the field.”

The Falcons, after two weeks of Power Five competition, will be a favorite next week against FCS member Eastern Kentucky at home.

The new-look Bowling Green defense under first-year coordinator Carl Pelini continues to be a work in progress, as evidenced by this result, but the Falcons saw a glimmer of hope from their first-half performance.

“I see potential in us. I believe in all 11 of us including me,” McBride said. “I see potential. I think we can be really good if we stay focused, stay locked in, and do what it takes to be great.”

Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at: npiotrowicz@theblade.com, 419-724-6110, or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz.

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