The Bowling Green Falcons were incredibly efficient on offense as they began the season 2-0 with wins over Tulsa and Kent State. Then, one week ago against Indiana, the Falcons were very inefficient. Despite constant excursions into IU territory and over 400 yards, the offense managed only three points in a 42-10 loss.
Could the Falcons regain their footing on Saturday against Murray State as they began a stretch of three consecutive home games? BGSU's answer was an emphatic "yes". Three quarterbacks combined to complete all but four of 32 pass attempts. The team converted all seven red zone chances and eight of ten third down opportunities. They averaged 8.9 yards per play en route to 660 yards of offense. Touchdowns were scored on seven of ten possessions, and that included a stretch of five consecutive touchdown drives. In fact, only one of BGSU's final seven drives did not end in the end zone.
As for those 660 yards? That total broke (by 84) the previous record for a Falcon team under Dave Clawson and was the most by BGSU since the 2004 team posted 666 versus Western Michigan. It also fell just 46 yards shy of the all-time school record, which was set versus Grand Valley State in 1978.
Did I also mention that the Falcons earned 32 first downs on just 74 plays from scrimmage? That total was just five shy of the BGSU record for a single game.
The game actually started slowly for Bowling Green. They managed one first down but had to punt on their first possession. On their next drive, the Falcons went 63 yards in eight plays and scored on a four-yard pass from Matt Johnson to Chris Gallon. However, Tyler Tate missed the extra point. When they got the ball back, Johnson led his squad 30 yards in three plays to the Falcon 45. On the fourth play, he threw a misguided pass over the middle that was intercepted by Murray State's Darria Skinner at the Racers' 33 and returned 14 yards.
Racers' quarterback Maikhail Miller took Murray State downfield to the BGSU 5 on a drive helped largely by a Paul Senn facemask penalty. On third down, Miller rolled left and appeared set to score and potentially give MSU the lead. However, Senn redeemed himself by forcing a fumble at the 2, which Paul Swan recovered at the Falcons' 1. From there, the Falcons completely took over the game.
From the 1, William Houston took the ball away from the goal line on a five-yard run. Travis Greene then put the Falcons at midfield with back-to-back runs of 13 and 31 yards. At the beginning of the second quarter, Johnson connected on two key third-down passes, first for 15 yards to Jordan Hopgood on 3rd-and-7 and then for 11 yards to Alex Bayer on 3rd-and-5. Two plays later, Greene slashed his way into the end zone for an eight-yard run that finished off an 11-play, 99-yard drive.
Murray State then went three-and-out, and the Falcons scored again five plays later. Johnson earned the team's third touchdown of the game on a seven-yard keeper. With 8:31 left in the half, it was 20-0 in favor of BGSU.
The Racers responded with their best drive of the first half. Miller completed a pass to Walter Powell for nine yards that would have given them a first down at the Falcons' 30, but that play was negated by a Jaamal Berry illegal block penalty. MSU was then forced to punt, and that was downed at the Falcons' 3. BGSU couldn't go the length of the field again, could they?
Yes. Bowling Green received steady running from Houston, Greene and Johnson, and Johnson hit two timely passes to get the Falcons to the 50. Hopgood then rushed down the right sideline for 25 yards to put BGSU into scoring position. Four plays later, Johnson scrambled right from the 11 at the 3. Murray State's Corey Addison was called for a personal foul on the play; the hit forced Johnson to run into and injure a student photographer. After a short delay to attend to the injured student, the Falcons failed to score on two rushing attempts from the one. On third down with 0:12 left in the half, Johnson rolled left in an apparent naked bootleg, but sensing pressure, he tossed the ball to Gallon. Gallon was wide open in the end zone, and the touchdown gave BGSU a 27-0 lead at halftime.
Unfortunately for the Racers, they went three-and-out after receiving the second half kickoff. BGSU took over at their own 32 and needed just four plays to score their fourth straight touchdown. Andre Givens started the drive with runs of 9 and 13 yards before Johnson connected with Bayer for a 37-yard pass. Givens came right back and scored on a nine-yard run for a 34-0 margin.
Jaamal Berry finally scored for Murray State on their second possession of the second half, but that drive was helped immensely as BGSU committed pass interference penalties on two key third downs inside Falcon territory. Regardless, Bowling Green's offense came right back and scored again by driving 61 yards in six plays. Greene caught a pass from Johnson for 20 yards before popping a 28-yard run. He then ceded to Houston for Houston's specialty -- the one-yard touchdown plunge.
Up 41-7, Clawson made a switch at quarterback from Johnson to Matt Schilz. Although Schilz appeared set to lead BGSU to another score, two costly penalties on offense in Murray State territory forced the Falcons to punt for only the second time in the game. When the Falcons got the ball back for the final time, James Knapke came in at quarterback for Bowling Green. He promptly led another touchdown drive and finished it by connecting with Ronnie Moore twice, first for 14 then for 17 yards. The 17-yard completion gave BGSU it's final 48-7 lead.
Perhaps the only downside to this game is that another injury to a key player on defense took place. Ted Ouellet injured a leg on the first defensive play from scrimmage and never returned. The team was already without Gabe Martin, Darrell Hunter and Josh Pettus, so losing Ouellet is costly. Hopefully for BGSU, it is not a long-term injury.
The effects of the loss of Ouellet showed more in the second half. After gaining only 117 yards in the first two quarters, Murray State posted 195 in the second half and moved the ball pretty effectively. They did have some help with BGSU penalties but had multiple opportunities to score.
The Falcons' next opponent, Akron, is not nearly as dynamic on offense as other teams the Falcons have seen so far. However, the Zips have become increasingly better on offense with each successive game and appear to have found an effective pass connection. If these key defensive players miss more time, Akron might surprise in seven days.
Statistics for individual players can be found in the box score posted earlier in this article.
The BGSU-Akron game next Saturday will kick off at 2:30 p.m. and will be played at Doyt Perry Stadium in Bowling Green.