The Bowling Green Falcons took the field in Bloomington, Ind. on Saturday with legitimate hopes of pulling an upset on the Indiana Hoosiers. BGSU had begun the year with impressive wins over Tulsa and Kent State, while Indiana had just been gashed for over 400 yards rushing last week in a home loss to Navy.
Early in the game, it looked like the Falcons might be able to make enough plays to pull off the win. However, as the game wore on, Bowling Green continued to make mistake after mistake in key situations. As a result, their defense could never gain real traction against the Indiana offense, and the Falcons' offense was never able to convert on their many chances to score.
But you know what? Teams lose. It happens. How often can a Mid-American Conference school say that one of their players produced ESPN SportsCenter's #1 play of the day?
The Bowling Green Falcons lost 42-10 to the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday, but it really doesn't change anything for the Falcons. Their offense and defense should both be at the top of the MAC, and the team will still likely be heading to Mississippi State at 5-1. Their next three opponents, all at home, are Murray State, Akron and Massachusetts.
(Although after Saturday, that Akron game doesn't look like a gimme anymore.)
If they are going to sweep their three-game home stand, BGSU has some things to clean up. What happened today?
Indiana received the opening kickoff and marched downfield without much in the way of opposition, until they reached the Bowling Green two-yard line. At the two, the Falcons held the Hoosiers to no points. Stephen Houston gained one yard on two carries, then Nate Sudfeld threw an incompletion. Indiana chose to go for the touchdown on fourth down, by Houston was stuffed again for a loss.
BGSU did nothing with the ball after the goal-line stand, and Indiana immediately got back inside the BGSU 5 with a 48-yard pass from Sudfeld to Shane Wynn. This time, there was no stand as Indiana scored on a one-yard run by Tevin Coleman.
The Falcons were able to generate some offense on their second drive but bogged down at the Indiana 29. Tyler Tate came in to try a 47-yard field goal, but the attempt was not close as Tate missed for the first time in 2013. Indiana quickly moved the ball back into Falcon territory with a couple of first down completions to Cody Latimer, but BGSU held firm at their 44. When IU lined up to punt, Falcon coach Dave Clawson called for a block attempt, and Paul Senn responded with the play in the above video. He essentially took the ball off the punter's foot and raced for a 56-yard touchdown and a 7-7 tie.
The self-inflicted wounds began for the Falcons on the next drive. IU's Damon Graham returned the BGSU kickoff to only the 19. On second down, Sudfeld was sacked for an eight-yard loss; he then threw an incompletion on third and 18. The Falcons then tried to block another punt, but this time, Erich Toth got the ball away and true freshman Isaiah Gourdine was called for roughing the kicker. The automatic first down allowed IU to get it's footing, and it drove again down to the Falcons' four yard line. However, four plays later, BGSU had held again and the Hoosiers came away with no points. Coleman gained three yards on three carries, then Tre Roberson fumbled on 4th-and-goal from the 1.
From there, BGSU drove to the Indiana 28 following a 28-yard pass from Matt Johnson to Shaun Joplin. A six-yard run by Andre Givens got the ball to the 22, but then a false start penalty bumped the Falcons back to a 2nd-and-9 situations. Two Johnson incompletions later, Tate came in and nailed a 45-yard field goal attempt for a 10-7 lead. The Falcons would not score again.
Jerry "BooBoo" Gates caused a fumble that was recovered by Paul Senn on the ensuing kickoff. A false start by Alex Bayer got the drive off on the wrong foot, and four plays later, BGSU faced a 4th-and-1 from the Indiana 22. It appeared as though William Houston would get an opportunity to convert, but the Falcons tried to spread out Indiana instead. On the fourth down play, T.J. Simmons broke through immediately for Indiana and sacked Johnson for a five-yard loss.
After that, the Indiana offense really began to gash Bowling Green's defense. Sudfeld converted a 3rd-and-17 with a 20-yard pass to Nick Stoner. Two plays later, Coleman rushed 43 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown to reclaim a 14-10 lead. BGSU was able to get to the IU 46 on the next drive, but a Johnson pass on 3rd-and-3 fell incomplete, and Brian Schmiedebusch had to punt. From his own 25, Stephen Houston ran around the right end and up the sideline for a 50-yard run. On the next play, he went for another 15 to set up first and goal. After two runs failed to score a touchdown, Sudfeld passed to Kofi Hughes for an eight-yard touchdown and a 21-10 lead.
Again, Bowling Green rolled downfield like a bowling ball only to come up short. From the Indiana 15, Johnson threw three straight incompletions. Tyler Tate came in for a 33-yard field goal attempt, but his knuckleball-esque kick never had a chance. Indiana went to halftime with their 21-10 lead intact.
The Hoosiers tried an onside kick to begin the second half, and they were inches from recovering it inbounds. However, officials ruled that the Indiana player did not have control of the ball in the field of play, and BGSU had great field position. Unfortunately, Johnson was intercepted at the Indiana 20 by Nick Mangieri. From there, Indiana scored in four plays. Coleman had another huge run, this time for 40 yards, then Sudfeld passed 33 yards to Latimer for a touchdown.
Down 28-10, the Falcons went on a long 15-play, seven-minute drive, but that ended at the Indiana 19 when William Houston was stuffed for a one-yard loss on 4th-and-1. The game was put away for good when Sudfeld scored on a keeper from one yard out just two plays into the fourth quarter. At 35-10, Indiana closed the scoring for good after Marcus Oliver forced a Shaun Joplin fumble that was recovered by Zack Shaw. Roberson cruised into the end zone from the BGSU 3 just five plays later to give the Hoosiers their final 42-10 victory.
What's amazing here is that Bowling Green penetrated Indiana's side of the field on nine of the 11 times that their offense touched the ball. Of those nine times, eight reached inside Indiana's 30-yard line. Those nine possessions resulted in a grand total of three points for the Falcons. Yes, the BGSU defense played poorly today, but the offense gave them no assistance at all. None.
BGSU was perfect in two games this year when they entered the opponents' red zone. Today, they were 0-for-3 in those situations.
The Falcons generated 409 yards of total offense and 24 first downs. They only punted twice. However, they missed two field goals, failed on four fourth-down conversion attempts, and turned the ball over twice. Johnson was able to complete just 25 of 44 pass attempts and could only get 248 yards. In relief, Matt Schilz earned 25 yards passing on three completions in seven attempts. Chris Gallon and Shaun Joplin both had outstanding days; Gallon had eight catches for 82 yards, while Joplin posted 104 yards on seven catches. Of course, Joplin also had a fumble.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the Falcons were never able to get a consistent running game going. Travis Greene led the Falcons with 43 yards on 11 attempts, while Fred Coppet ran seven times for 40 yards. Ronnie Moore and Andre Givens had 15 yards each. Jordan Hopgood saw his first action of the year and had one run for three yards
However, his biggest play of the game was on a play that he did not register a touch. On the second play of BGSU's second drive of the game, Hopgood went out as a receiver and got behind the defense. He was wide open and Johnson threw the ball perfectly to hit him in stride -- but the ball went right through his hands. It was a perfect example of the ways BGSU could have kept themselves in this game but found ways to avoid doing so.
The Hoosiers racked up 601 yards of offense on 74 plays to average 8.1 yards per play. Sudfeld completed 17 of 26 passes for 335 yards, but IU also netted 266 yards rushing. Latimer was the receiving star for Indiana, and his six catches and 137 yards led the team. On the ground, Houston tallied 155 yards while Coleman added 129 more.
Now that this is over, the Falcons are going to need a short memory. Learn from the mistakes but remember that this game means nothing in terms of goals that the team has for the MAC. The team has an opportunity to get well in front of Falcon-friendly crowds over the next three weeks before the Falcons head into the real meat of their schedule.
Meanwhile, Indiana takes their 2-1 record into their final non-conference game of the season next week at home against Missouri. Two weeks after that game, they will host Penn State to begin their conference schedule.