Bowling Green Stays Unbeaten with 41-22 Win at Kent State

Peter Casey-US PRESSWIRE

The prevailing view of Bowling Green football this year is a team with a stifling defense and just enough offense to get by. After today, that view may need to change. In his first career start, Matt Johnson led the Falcons to nearly 600 yards of offense against a top MAC team. On the road.

For the first 25 minutes and 20 seconds of today's game, the Bowling Green Falcons and Kent State Golden Flashes played a contest that seemed destined to reprise last year's November thriller.  For the first 25 minutes and 20 seconds, Kent State did what few other teams have done to BGSU over the last season and two games -- move the ball at will against the Falcon defense.

Reality set in over the final 34:40 at Dix Stadium in Kent, Ohio.  Bowling Green's defense re-established the dominance that it exerted last week against Tulsa, and the team used the third quarter to put the game firmly within their control.




Neither defense showed up to begin the game.  On the first drive, the Falcons took ball 77 yards in nine plays for a quick 7-0 lead.  Travis Greene rushed six times on the drive for 48 yards, and covered 42 yards on the final four plays of the drive.  Not to be outdone, Kent State took just five plays to travel 75 yards on the ensuing drive for a touchdown.  After two Trayion Durham runs to start netted zero yards, Colin Reardon hit Chris Humphrey for a 16-yard play and a third-down conversion.  Two plays later, he threw to Humphrey again for a 42-yard touchdown pass.  KSU head coach Paul Haynes chose to attempt a two-point conversion, and Humphrey ran the ball in for an 8-7 lead.

After the teams traded punts, BGSU took over at their own 11 with three minutes left in the first quarter.  When the quarter ended seven plays later, the Falcons were at the KSU 12-yard line.  Greene rushed four times for 36 yards to help the cause and ended the frame with 11 carries and 86 yards.  Two incompletions at the start of the second quarter forced a 30-yard field goal attempt, which Tyler Tate nailed for a 10-8 BGSU lead.

Ten plays later, Kent State was in the end zone again, as the Falcons appeared to have no answer for the Flashes' read option plays.  Casey Pierce capped the 76-yard drive with a 12-yard reception from Reardon on third down.  The extra point put Kent State back in front, 17-15; however, the Falcons were not done.  They responded with a touchdown of their own in just six plays.  Matt Johnson went 3-for-3 on the drive for 64 yards; all three passes were to different receivers.  Shaun Joplin's 35-yard catch to the KSU 9-yard line set up Andre Givens' 3-yard touchdown run two plays later.

Down 17-15, the Flashes responded again.  Reardon accounted for 64 yards running and passing, including a 42-yard keeper down the left sideline, on a five-play, 68-yard drive.  Durham scored from two yards out to give Kent State a 22-17 lead.  At this point, KSU had outgained the Falcons 243-235 and Reardon was 10-for-13 with 131 yards passing.

From that point forward, Bowling Green outgained Kent State 341-59, and Reardon completed just five of 15 passes for 33 yards.

Johnson deftly led Bowling Green down the field on a ten-play, 3:47 drive to take the lead before the end of the first half.  He connected on five of six passes for 55 yards on the drive, with four different receivers making catches.  Jared Cohen's seven-yard scoring catch and Tate's extra point provided the Falcons with a 24-22 lead with 0:47 left in the second quarter.  KSU had all three timeouts remaining, but chose to run out the clock after a Reardon incompletion on first down.

The Golden Flashes took the second half kickoff and earned their only first down of the third quarter after three plays.  Reardon then threw three passes which met the turf, and the Falcons got the ball back after a punt.  Johnson led BGSU on a drive that took six-and-a-half minutes off the game clock, and Tate capped the trek with a 41-yard field goal.  Down 27-22, Kent State went three-and-out on their next series, but punter/place-kicker Anthony Melchiori boomed a 58-yard kick that was fair caught at the BGSU 13.  After a sack and an incompletion, the Falcons faced a third-and-15 from their own 8 yard line.

Johnson then broke Kent State's heart with a deep pass over the middle that Ryan Burbrink cradled into his chest and took for a 92-yard touchdown and a 34-22 lead.  The two squads traded three punts before BGSU put the game away for good.  Starting at their own 34 to start the fourth quarter, Greene had two carries for 14 yards before Johnson passed to Joplin for ten yards to the Flashes' 42.  On the next play, Johnson put the ball at the KSU 1-yard line with a 41-yard pass to Tyler Beck.  William Houston then came in for his specialty and scored his fourth one-yard touchdown run of the season for the game's final 41-22 margin.

With their 17-0 margin in the second half, the Falcons have now outscored their first two opponents by a combined 45-7 in the final two quarters of each game.

Overall, Bowling Green ran up 576 yards of total offense, which is the most by the team under head coach Dave Clawson.  They averaged 8.1 yards per play, had 26 first downs, and produced both 219 yards rushing and 357 yards passing.  The Falcons were also six-for-six in red zone opportunities.  They are now 11-for-11 in the first two games of the 2013 season.

In Johnson's first career start, he was 19-for-25 with those 357 yards passing, two touchdowns and no interceptions.  He also ran for 17 yards.  Greene ended with 145 yards on 24 carries plus a touchdown.  Givens contributed 21 yards of his own, while Fred Coppet posted 36 yards on four carries in the fourth quarter.  Joplin continued his excellent play against KSU with six catches and 113 yards, while Gallon had four for 45 and Alex Bayer also had four catches for 52 yards.

Kent State ended the game with just 302 yards on 56 plays, which is surely a disappointment given how they started.  The Golden Flashes rushed for 138 yards on 28 attempts but managed only 164 yards passing.

Reardon accounted for 212 total yards between his 164 passing and 58 rushing.  He had 28 pass attempts and 12 carries during the game.  Ernest Calhoun had one 29-yard carry, and Anthony Meray ended the game with 27 yards on three rushes.  Trayion Durham carried the ball 11 times for 24 yards and a touchdown.  Humphrey's 42-yard TD reception was part of his four-catch, 84-yard performance.  Tyshon Goode also had four catches but for just 24 yards.

Bowling Green now takes their 2-0 record to Bloomington, Ind. for a date next Saturday with the Indiana Hoosiers.  IU fell to 1-1 on the season this week due to a 41-35 loss at home to Navy, during which they gave up 515 yards of offense and 444 on the ground.  The BGSU-IU game will begin at 12:00pm ET.

Kent State, now 1-1, will play at Louisiana State next Saturday night at 7:00pm ET.  LSU is 2-0 this season after wins over TCU (37-27) and UAB (56-17).

Both games will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

The Falcons are now 1-0 in Mid-American Conference play and have a big leg-up with an important division tiebreaker edge.  Their next MAC contest is in three weeks, when they host Akron on Sept. 28.  Kent State, who fell to 0-1 in conference play, also faces their next MAC foe three weeks from now.  They travel to Western Michigan on Sept. 28, then host Northern Illinois on Oct. 5th in a rematch of the 2012 MAC Championship Game.

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