BOWLING GREEN — From a young age, football players are drilled to play in between the whistles.
But in this week’s game, Bowling Green’s chances likely will be decided by what happens before the snap.
Maryland will pay a visit Saturday to Doyt Perry Stadium, and the Terrapins’ offense under interim head coach Matt Canada can be especially deceptive. The Terps, as evidenced in their season-opening win against Texas, are active with presnap motions and they’re liable to do just about anything at any time.
Eleven different players carried the ball in Maryland’s first game. Ten caught a pass. Two quarterbacks played — which will be the case again this week, Canada said — and true freshman receiver Jeshaun Jones threw, caught, and ran for a touchdown.
The Falcons beat Maryland in 2015, but they see this Maryland team as a new challenge.
“They’re a lot different team than when we played them a couple years ago,” cornerback Marcus Milton said. “It’s a lot of speed motions, a lot of return motions, just a lot of things they do. They do a lot of things to play with your eyes and play with your discipline.”
The Terrapins averaged 5 yards on 80 plays in their 34-29 victory against Texas, which was ranked No. 23 to begin the season. Maryland started Kasim Hill at quarterback but also mixed in Tyrrell Pigrome, and the movement around them was constant.
There were times when Maryland rushed to the line, and others when the Terrapins huddled. Maryland uses most of its skill players interchangeably, whether it’s running a receiver into the backfield to carry the ball or lining up a running back as a receiver to catch passes.
Canada, who spent seven seasons in the Mid-American Conference as a Northern Illinois assistant, said the array of options all have the same end goal.
“It’s all looking for the same thing: To get a defense to maybe not have their cleats right in the ground and just firing off on all cylinders,” Canada said. “It’s nothing revolutionary, it’s just a different way of doing things.”
Bowling Green allowed 58 points to Oregon in its opener, but Falcons coach Mike Jinks said he saw a few encouraging signs. Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert, a likely first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft, threw five touchdown passes, but Jinks said the Falcons often were making the correct decisions, even if they were a half-step late.
“I thought they did a good job — other than one zone read — of having their eyes in the right place,” Jinks said. “A couple of the explosive plays we gave up, [Herbert] made great throws. They had some kids that could run too, but our eyes were in the right place and we had guys in the area to make the play.”
Ahead of the Maryland game, Jinks said BG would take steps to simplify its rebuilt defense in practice.
For the Falcons to have a realistic chance at pulling an upset, they’ll have to avoid falling into the confusion trap the Terrapins set with their collection of motions before the snap.
“It’s kind of like the old wing-T, in a way,” Jinks said. “I think the biggest deal is to make sure we’re simple in our approach and [we] give our kids a chance to play fast.”
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