One week after getting lambasted by the #5 ranked team in the country (Ohio State) 77-10, the Bowling Green Falcons struggled to beat the #25 ranked FCS team, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
It took a defensive stand on a two-point conversion attempt as time was expiring for the Falcons to fend-off the Hawks, 27-26. The win was way too hard for the defending Mid-American Conference (MAC) Champions.
While the first two weeks of the season for the Falcons have raised way more questions than they answered, here are five things I learned from Saturday’s Falcons game against the Fighting Hawks.
1. The MAC East Division is wide open. The Falcons have won the east division the last three years. But if they are going to repeat for a fourth time, they have a lot of work to do. This isn’t the same team on offense that had the likes of Matt Johnson, Travis Greene, Gehrig Dieter, and Roger Lewis. They can no longer “out punch” opposing teams. The defense also looks like you can’t count on it either. I have no confidence the Falcons will be able to win important east division games on the road this year. And, I certainly don’t see them winning any games on their schedule against west division teams. People tired of watching the Falcons play in Detroit in December may get their wish.
2. The Bowling Green offensive line must really miss Jacob Bennett. The redshirt senior guard went down with a knee injury during fall camp and is lost for the year. He had started 42 consecutive games for the Falcons. The Bowling Green offensive line had four starters returning this year and was supposed to be the strength of the offense. But after two games, the Falcons are really struggling to run the ball. I could see having trouble against the Buckeyes last week, but only 90 yard this week against North Dakota? The spread relies of being able to run the ball enough to keep the pressure off the passing game. That’s not happening.
3. James Knapke and Scott Miller are forming a nice chemistry. Miller caught three touchdown passes from Knapke on Saturday, including scores from 71 and 51 yards out. Miller finished with 161 yards receiving, and Knapke had 315 yards passing. Teams seemed to be focusing on Falcon senior receiver Ronnie Moore and leaving Miller with single coverage. The Falcons would continue to take that match-up all season.
4. It may take Mike Jinks a few games to settle in. The first-year head coach for the Falcons has been learning on the fly. Drawing Ohio State in the opener was not really fair. He is just three years removed from being a high school coach in Texas, albeit a very successful one. He’s finding out that being THE GUY at the college level is very demanding. There are a lot of moving parts to running a successful program. His successors, Dino Babers and Dave Clawson had been successful head coaches before they got to Bowling Green. Just as it does for his freshman, the game will eventually slow down for Jinks.
5. Field goal kicking remains an adventure for the Falcons. The Falcons missed an extra point in the third quarter against North Dakota that nearly got them beat. In addition, Jake Suder had also missed a 30 yard field goal earlier in the game. Remember, Jinks said he didn’t attempt a 39-yard field goal against the Buckeyes because “it was little out of our range.” Yikes! If that’s the case, the Falcon offense may be going for it a lot on fourth down.