In today's winner-take-all game at Ralph Wilson Stadium, we have a winner! The Bowling Green Falcons have defeated the Buffalo Bulls 24-7 to win the Mid-American Conference Eastern Division. The Falcons move on to their first MAC Championship Game since 2003 (and their first ever in Detroit) and will face the Northern Illinois Huskies. With a win next Friday, BGSU would capture their first MAC championship in 21 years.
The Falcons also assured themselves a bowl bid with their victory today.
Bowling Green struggled early and often on offense in the first half but dominated play after the teams returned from halftime. In the fourth quarter, the Falcons drove 81 yards for their final score of the game. The drive was finished by a seven-yard run by quarterback Matt Johnson.
BGSU posted over 300 yards of total offense in the second half and ended the game with 490 overall. Buffalo finished the contest with 236 yards of offense, but much of that came late in the fourth quarter, when the game was no longer in doubt.
The difference in the game was Bowling Green's ability to run the ball and stop Buffalo's running game. The Falcons piled up 260 yards on 48 carries and limited the Bulls to just 15 yards on 24 attempts. Buffalo also had two turnovers in the second half. And, in a complete reversal from the first half, the Bulls were just 1-for-8 on third down whereas the Falcons were 5-for-9.
Travis Greene finished the game with 129 yards on 30 carries. He will need just 23 yards in BGSU's final two games to break the Falcons' all-time single-season rushing record. William Houston added 47 yards on the ground, while Johnson 302 total yards (72 rushing, 230 passing). Shaun Joplin, who had a big drop in the first half, came back to have a huge game. He was the only Falcon to bring in multiple receptions, and he caught six balls for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Branden Oliver rushed for 46 yards in Buffalo's losing effort. Joe Licata threw for 221 yards but completed only 21 of 45 passes and lost 30 yards on five rushing attempts (mostly sacks). Alex Neutz led Bulls' receivers with six catches for 66 yards. On defense, Khalil Mack set the NCAA career record for tackles-for-loss during the game.
Buffalo falls to 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the MAC. They are still very likely to earn a bowl bid but will have to wait until next Sunday to find out where they (might) go.
Bowling Green is 9-3 overall and 7-1 in the MAC. As Eastern Division champs, they'll play NIU next Friday night at Ford Field in Detroit, then (win or lose) will await their bowl destination later next weekend.