Falcons washed away after dispiriting collapse

  • SPT-BGFB09-30

    Bowling Green players walk off the field after Saturday's loss to Maryland.

    Blade/Kurt Steiss

  • BOWLING GREEN — When it rains for the Bowling Green football team, it hurricanes.

    Is there a better metaphor for the hard-luck state of affairs here than the remnants of a tropical storm dumping on its big day?

    The Falcons were the guy who slips on a banana peel and loses his winning Powerball ticket in a 45-14 loss to Maryland on Saturday night at Doyt Perry Stadium.

    This was supposed to be a big-stage showcase, a chance for a show-me community to come out and see and — just maybe — believe again.

    Bowling Green players walk off the field after Saturday's loss to Maryland.
    Bowling Green players walk off the field after Saturday's loss to Maryland.

    With the Falcons hosting a power-conference team for just the fifth time in their 99-year history, school officials anticipated a near-sellout crowd of more than 20,000.

    Then ...

    [Insert record scratch sound effect.]

    As it happened, a Bowling Green program that has now lost 20 of its last 26 games could not have nice things.

    Along came one of the coldest nights of summer, a rain-swept setting that kept all but the most orange-blooded loyalists away. A third-full stadium watched the Falcons take a 14-10 lead into halftime, then, as a downpour began, felt reality hit them like a bucket of cold water.

    A week after Bowling Green took a 10-0 lead in a 34-point loss at Oregon, we should have saved our money on the sequel. The Falcons wore down, then out, its inspired but overmatched lines providing less resistance than an autumn breeze.

    Maryland outgained the hosts a cool 444-15 on the ground. Yes, you read that right. A whiteout washout.

    “They physically kicked our tails,” Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks said.

    Look, this is not to be a downer.

    I don’t know what Saturday portends for the Falcons. Remember, like other cash-strapped mid-major programs, they are not playing three power-league teams this month — including Oregon and Georgia Tech on the road — to best prepare them for Mid-American Conference play. They are playing them to keep the lights on in the athletic department. “Am I comfortable with it?” BG athletic director Bob Moosbrugger said. “I’m very uneasy about it. ... We put a lot on the shoulders of our football program.”

    In an era defined by moral victories — everyone had fun and got some exercise! — there were positives.

    Quarterback Jarret Doege continued to show flashes. He led a 14-play, 89-yard touchdown drive to close the first quarter, then polished off the half in highlight-reel style. Doing his best imitation of Frogger, the big sophomore weaved his way through rush-hour traffic in the pocket before floating a 29-yard pass to Quintin Morris waiting by the end zone.

    Its defense, meanwhile, was both living and breathing early.

    The Falcons lacked the size or athletes to win up front, but it didn’t matter. They had an air of competence missing the last two seasons, and with the aid of timely penalties, a fumble at midfield, and one third-down stop after another, first-year coordinator Carl Pelini’s unit held a Maryland team that hung 34 on Texas last week scoreless the first 27-plus minutes.

    The Falcons can no doubt build on that.

    “I see potential in us,” defensive back Jerry McBride said. “I think we can be really good if we stay focused.”

    Still, the degree of the second-half collapse invited concern. If Maryland looks decent — and is simply bigger, deeper, and more talented than Bowling Green — the bottom line is a good MAC program would not have been so throughly handled up front.

    By the end, Maryland simply lined up in an I-formation and shoved the ball down the Falcons’ gullet, slowed only by the officials. After one of the Terrapins’ five second-half touchdowns, a player was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after “high-fiving fans in the stands.”

    At least what was left of them.

    When it rains for the Bowling Green football team, it hurricanes.

    Contact David Briggs at dbriggs@theblade.com419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.