On display in Bowling Green on Tuesday night were two teams headed in completely opposite directions. The Bowling Green Falcons have answered the bell since their crushing loss to Toledo and are now on the doorstep of their first MAC Championship Game appearance in ten years. The Ohio Bobcats are, once again, in late-season meltdown mode and are in serious danger of not playing in the postseason at all.
The Falcons scored on their second play from scrimmage and dominated in every facet on their way to a 49-0 shutout of the Bobcats. The 49-point win is Bowling Green's largest since a 63-point win (70-7) over Temple in 2005. It is also BGSU's second-biggest win over Ohio in series history, falling just shy of their 52-point win (72-21) in the 2002 game. Coupled with their 42-point victory last week, this is the first time in program history that the Falcons have ever won consecutive games by 40 points or more.
One of the loudest fan criticisms of Bowling Green this year has been over the team's penchant for slow starts. Well, BGSU has apparently put that criticism out of it's misery. Last night, Bowling Green forced a prompt three-and-out on Ohio's first series. After a short punt, Matt Johnson executed a sweet play-action fake and threw deep over the middle to a wide open Shaun Joplin for a 43-yard gain. Travis Greene swept around right end for an 11-yard touchdown on the next play, and the Falcons led 7-0 with just 2:05 gone from the clock.
On Ohio's next drive, Tyler Tettleton was sacked on the first play and then threw two incompletions to force a 4th-and-12 from their own 30. Inexplicably, head coach Frank Solich called a fake punt, and Grant Venham did not get even remotely close. He gained just two of the 12 yards needed, and Bowling Green took over with the ball at the Ohio 32. Johnson immediately threw a jump ball into the end zone to Heath Jackson. Jackson was covered by three Bobcats, but he made a great leaping catch for the 32-yard touchdown. After running just three plays, the Falcons were already up 14-0.
It just got worse for Ohio from there. Their next two drives ended much as their first two did -- three plays and no first down. OU punted after each, and Bowling Green drove down-field and scored after each. Up 14-0, BGSU drove 72 yards in 11 plays for their third touchdown. Greene ran five times for 26 yards while Johnson ran twice for 17. Johnson also completed two more balls to Joplin for 14 yards each. On 3rd-and-goal from the 1, William Houston performed his specialty and plowed into the end zone for his ninth rushing touchdown of the season.
BGSU's 21-point outburst in the first quarter was the fourth time this season that they've accomplished the feat -- and each of the four came in a different quarter (4th quarter vs Tulsa, 2nd quarter vs Murray State, 3rd quarter at Miami). It was also their most points in a first quarter since 28 points against Morgan State in 2011. Coincidentally, that game was played on 9/10/11, while last night's game was on 11/12/13.
Bowling Green quickly got the ball back and wasted no time in scoring their fourth touchdown. Johnson completed passes of 10 yards to Ryan Burbrink and 18 to Jackson. Freshman Fred Coppet also had two runs for 19 yards, including a 16-yarder that was a fantastic display of his speed. Johnson's pass to Jackson down the right sideline got the ball to the 1, and Houston again bowled his way into the end zone for his tenth scoring run of the season. The Falcons led 28-0, and just 17:34 had elapsed in the game.
After that, Ohio actually had a couple of positive things go their way. They finally got their initial first down of the game on a Tettleton-to-Hill pass, and then their defense pressured Johnson into an interception near midfield. Beau Blankenship then carried 12 yards for another first down and their first trip into Bowling Green territory. Unfortunately, on the next play, Paul Swan forced a Donte Foster fumble. Ryland Ward recovered for Bowling Green, and it was over.
Greene carried the ball five times for 41 yards on BGSU's march toward another score. His final carry took him 16 unscathed yards around the left side for his second touchdown of the game. With a 35-0 lead, BGSU forced another three-and-out before running out the clock in the first half.
The Falcons ended the charade for good immediately after the second half started. After taking the opening kickoff of the half to their own 27, the Falcons gave the rock to Greene twice for five yards. Johnson then threw to Alex Bayer for an 11 yard gain. On first down from the 43, Johnson found Bayer again down the right sideline. Bayer made a couple of Bobcats miss and rumbled for a 57-yard touchdown. With just 2:19 gone in the third quarter, Bowling Green led 42-0.
Ohio was driving for an apparent score early in the fourth quarter when Tettleton threw an interception at the goal line to Jerry "Boo Boo" Gates. Gates returned the ball 82 yards. After a couple of penalties were enforced, the Falcons took possession at the Ohio 24. Two plays later, senior Matt Schilz celebrated his final appearance at Doyt Perry Stadium with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Ronnie Moore. The scoring throw gave BGSU its final victory margin of 49-0.
Late in the fourth quarter, Ohio drove deep into Bowling Green territory again. This time, they made it into the red zone for the only time in the game, but they eventually turned the ball over on downs. The Falcons then took one knee to mercifully end the contest.
Bowling Green outgained Ohio 460-172 in the game, but that spread was reached by halftime. In the first half, BGSU had 333 yards compared to just 50 for Ohio. The Bobcats had only two first downs before the intermission. Overall, they had just nine, and they were just 2-for-16 on third down plays. A large contributing factor was the Bobcats' complete inability to run the ball. Ohio ran 29 times for just 56 yards -- and even when you factor out sacks, they had only 82 yards on 25 carries. They also had just 116 yards on 33 passing attempts.
Bowling Green split their yardage rather evenly with 207 on the ground and 253 through the air. The Falcons were 6-for-10 on third down conversion attempts, were 4-for-4 in the red zone, and possessed the ball for 33:37.
Travis Greene rushed for 149 yards on 22 carries and now has 1,167 rushing yards for the season. He now ranks fourth on BGSU's single-season rushing list and now needs just 278 yards to break the school record. He'll have anywhere from three to five games to break it. Matt Johnson rushed for 36 yards of his own and also completed 12 of 17 passes for 229 yards (13.5 per attempt). He threw two touchdown passes and had one interception. Senior Matt Schilz had that one completion for a 24-yard touchdown.
Heath Jackson, who is finally healthy and getting a real chance to shine, is making the most of his opportunity. He caught five passes versus Ohio for 74 yards and a touchdown. Shaun Joplin's three catches went for 71 yards, and Alex Bayer added 68 yards (and a touchdown) on just two catches.
BGSU's defense had nine different players record tackles for loss and six different ones record at least one-half sack. Cameron Truss led with seven tackles. BooBoo Gates had an interception, while Paul Swan forced a fumble. Ryland ward had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Brian Schmiedebusch punted four times, all after BGSU led 42-0, and two of those were downed inside Ohio's 5 yard line.
For Ohio, Beau Blankenship rushed nine times for 26 yards, while Tim Edmond added 20 yards on eight carries. Tyler Tettleton added a net loss of six yards rushing while throwing for just 93 yards on 27 pass attempts. Sebastian Smith led the team with three catches, while Troy Hill led with 28 receiving yards. Grant Venham had nine punts for a 38.1 average, as well as his two-yard run in the first quarter. Josh Kristoff and Ben Russell led the defense with eight tackles, while Xavier Hughes was credited with an interception and Nic Barber with a sack.
With the loss, Ohio drops to 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the Mid-American Conference. They are officially eliminated from the race for the division championship and may have cost themselves a shot at a bowl appearance. They host Kent State next Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN2 before closing the season on Friday, Nov. 29th at home against Massachusetts.
Bowling Green improves to 7-3 overall and 5-1 in the MAC with this victory. Thanks to Buffalo's loss at Toledo, the Falcons are now back in a first-place tie in the MAC's Eastern Division. Regardless of what BGSU and Buffalo do in their games next week, this much is guaranteed -- the Bowling Green-Buffalo game in Buffalo on Friday, Nov. 29th will be winner-take-all, with the winner earning a berth in the MAC Championship Game. BGSU's next game is Saturday, Nov. 23rd at Eastern Michigan. Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be shown exclusively on ESPN3.