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Falcons Lose 21-20 Heartbreaker to Misssissippi State

Bowling Green had something to prove against a big-time opponent after losing by 32 at Indiana. It's safe to say that they showed their mettle tonight, even if a win would have been sweeter.

Mississippi State Athletics

The Bowling Green Falcons fell by the slimmest of margins on Saturday night in a Mid-American Conference team's latest attempt to win a road game against a Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifier conference.  BGSU shut out the Mississippi St. Bulldogs over the game's final 30 minutes but could not find a a way earn the winning points as they lost in Starkville, Miss., 21-20.

The goal is to win games, not take home moral victories, and there will certainly be plenty of mistakes for the Falcons to correct as they prepare for their next game.  However, this was a fantastic effort from a team that many doubted following their 32-point loss at Indiana last month.  In particular, their resiliency was great to see and could be an important factor for the team.  The Falcons fell behind 14-3, and it felt like another blowout was coming; instead, the team banded together and almost won the game.  BGSU has several important conference games left, and it's good to know that they will not blink in the face of adversity.

The adversity started right from the opening kickoff.  The Bulldogs took the ball from their own 25 and marched 75 yards in 5:02 of game time.  The nine play touchdown march was highlighted by quarterback Tyler Russell's 5-for-5 passing.  Each of the five passes went to a different receiver and, in total, went for 59 yards.  MSU then finished off the drive with three straight runs.  All-purpose star Jameon Lewis ran for 16 before LaDarius Perkins ran twice for the final four yards.  His one-yard scoring plunge gave the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead.

As has been the case for most of the season, the Bowling Green offense struggled out of the gate.  Matt Johnson completed a 17-yard pass to Shaun Joplin on their first snap, but their next six plays generated a net loss of four yards.

Fortunately for BGSU, that still led to three points.  Brian Schmiedebusch boomed a 48-yard punt after the Falcons' first possession, and an MSU penalty forced them to start at their own 6.  Three plays later, dual-threat quarterback Dak Prescott's first pass of the game was tipped and intercepted by Jerry "Boo Boo" Gates, who returned the ball to the Bulldogs' 13.  The Falcons could not move the ball from there, but Tyler Tate came in and nailed a 35-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3.

On the very next play, Prescott atoned for his interception.  He faked a hand-off, and when the BGSU defense bought the fake, he raced up the middle virtually untouched for a 75-yard touchdown run.  His effort gave Mississippi St. a 14-3 lead just 9:44 into the game.

The Falcons were able to generate a little offense on their next possession but again had to punt, this time from midfield.  Schmiedebusch had another good effort, and his 49-yard punt was downed at the MSU 1-yard line.  The first quarter ended shortly thereafter, and the Bulldogs had a 178-59 edge in total yards.  Their drive would continue in the second quarter and reach the BGSU 30, but it stalled there.  Lewis lost five yards on first down, and on third down, MSU was hit with a false start penalty before Russell was sacked by Taylor Royster at the BGSU 45.  The 10-play possession, which took over nine minutes off the clock, ended in a punt.

And again, as has so often been the case in 2013, the Falcons took that second-quarter momentum changer and turned it into points.  A pass interference penalty by MSU on the first play of the Falcons' drive nullified an interception and got BGSU out of the shadow of their own end zone.  From their own 19, Travis Greene ran for four yards and Johnson for 13 more before Greene ripped off a 29-yard jaunt to put the Falcons in scoring position for the first time.  Johnson's 28-yard pass to Tyler Beck quickly set up an Andre Givens run, and Givens took the ball the final seven yards for BGSU's first touchdown of the game.  Tate's extra point made the score 14-10 with 4:15 left in the first half.

MSU snowballed downfield from their own 25 to the BGSU 22, where they faced a 3rd-and-3 with just over a minute to play.  On that third down, Prescott kept the ball and ran up the middle to try to get the first down.  The Falcons had him stood up, one yard short, before Gates tried to finish off the tackle.  Unfortunately for Gates and BGSU, he hit Prescott helmet-to-helmet and was flagged for a targeting foul.  The penalty gave the Bulldogs a first down but also caused Gates to be ejected from the game.  On the next play, Prescott ran a keeper around the right side for a ten-yard touchdown and a 21-10 lead.

At this point, the Falcons could have folded up their tent and went home, but they didn't.  Travis Greene ran for 19 yards to the BGSU 49 on the second play after the kickoff, and Johnson then used passes to Jared Cohen and Ryan Burbrink to move the ball to the MSU 25.  Tate's 45 yard field goal attempt as the half expired was good, and Bowling Green went into halftime feeling very good with just a 21-13 deficit.  BGSU outgained MSU in the second quarter, 129-115.

The Falcon offense really got going early in the second half.  Bowling Green received the second half kickoff and traveled 48 yards in 11 plays.  Falcon head coach Dave Clawson chose to kick a field goal rather than risk a 4th-and-1 attempt from the MSU 27, but Tate's 45-yard kick went wide left.  The Falcons held MSU to a three-and-out after the missed field goal, and their second drive finally generated points.  Johnson completed back-to-back passes to Burbrink for 17 and 24 yards, and the Bulldogs were flagged for a face mask on the latter of the two throws.  With the ball on the Bulldogs' 18, Bowling Green used four runs to get into the end zone.  Greene's 12 yard push gave BGSU a first-and-goal, then Johnson had runs of five and two yards, respectively.  The two-yard keeper made the score 21-19 and gave Clawson an important choice -- kick the extra point or try a two-point conversion to tie the game.

Clawson decided not to chase the tie and sent Tate in for the extra point, which made the score 21-20.

In the fourth quarter, Mississippi State had the ball deep inside Bowling Green territory on each of their three possessions but failed to score on any of them.  The first ended when Devon Bell missed a 44-yard field goal off the right upright, and the other two ended when MSU turned the ball over on downs.

Bowling Green made some noise on each of their two fourth-quarter drives but ultimately could not push across the winning points.  The first drive reached the Bulldogs' 40.  On 4th-and-2, Clawson made the gutsy call to go for the first down, but Johnson's pass to Greene down the right sideline fell incomplete.  It appeared that MSU might have committed pass interference on the play, but nothing was called by the officials.  The second drive culminated with a 4th-and-11 play from BGSU's own 45 with just over one minute remaining in the game.  Johnson scrambled right and tried to complete a pass to Burbrink, but Burbrink was hit as he tried to catch the pass.  The ball fell to the turf to seal BGSU's fate.  On this play, replay showed that an MSU defender clearly made helmet-to-helmet contact with Burbrink but again, nothing was called.

BGSU did get one last desperation play from their own 29 with three seconds left.  However, nothing came of the play, and MSU escaped with their 21-20 victory.

The Bulldogs closed the game with a 422-384 edge in total yards, but BGSU actually led that category 325-244 over the final three quarters.  MSU had 245 yards rushing, but almost half of that total (119) came in the first quarter.  Bowling Green generated 160 rushing yards of their own and out-passed MSU, 224-177.

Mississippi State had the game's only turnover until the BGSU fumble on the wild scramble of a final play.  The Bulldogs also had nine penalties and 71 penalty yards compared to the Falcons' four for 30.  Each team was 4-for-11 on third down attempts, and BGSU was better in the red zone, as they converted all three opportunities compared to just 2-of-3 by MSU.

Johnson was 20-for-34 with 224 yards.  He had no touchdowns but also threw no interceptions.  His 22 completions went to eight different receivers.  Cohen led the Falcons with five catches (for 51 yards), while Burbrink led the team with 66 yards (on four catches).  Joplin also contributed four catches and 40 yards.

Travis Greene had another outstanding game.  He ended the contest with 99 yards thanks to 15 carries for a 6.6 yards-per-carry average.  Johnson added 29 yards and a touchdown from the quarterback slot, while Andre Givens had 24 yards and a touchdown of his own.

On defense, the Falcons had four tackles for loss and two sacks (the second by Kendall Montgomery).  Paul Swan and Ryland Ward led the team with 11 and 9 tackles.  On special teams, Schmiedebusch punted just twice, and each was downed inside the 20.  Tate was 2-for-3 on field goal attempts, and Anthony Farinella's four kickoffs led to two touchbacks and a 63.0 average.

Tyler Russell was 12-for-14 with 102 yards for MSU, while Dak Prescott completed seven of 11 passes for 75 yards and an interception.  Joe Morrow led Bulldog receivers with four catches and 57 yards.  The BGSU secondary held Jameon Lewis to only four catches and 34 yards.  Lewis also had just 15 yards on the ground and 47 on three special teams returns.  Holding him to 96 total yards on 12 touches was an impressive effort.

Prescott's 75-yard run in the first quarter led to a game total of 139 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.  LaDarius Perkins had 16 carries, 83 yards and a touchdown, but virtually all of that came in the first half.  Perkins also had four catches for 21 yards.

The Mississippi State defense had five tackles for loss but just one sack and failed to force a turnover that mattered.  Benardrick McKinney and Deontae Skinner led with eight tackles apiece.

For Bowling Green, the loss really doesn't mean much.  It drops the team's record to 5-2 but holds no bearing on the Falcons' last five games and attempt to win a conference championship.  It appeared that BGSU emerged from the game without many health issues, although receiver Chris Gallon did come out of the game early.  That injury could be important.

The Falcons have no game next weekend, and that gives BGSU two weeks to prepare for their next game.  Who is their opponent?  None other than their arch-rival Toledo.  Game time for the Oct. 26th game in Bowling Green has not been determined yet, but it will be one of the most important games of the year for both teams.