After three years of dominating the Mid-American Conference east division and winning two MAC Championships, the Bowling Green Falcons appear to be mere mortals again. The Falcons lost in convincing fashion on Saturday, 41-21 to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders from Conference-USA.
Most of the game was played in a driving rain storm, and it was clear that the Blue Raiders were the better team. Bowling Green found some success with the running game, partly because the weather was dictating it. However the passing game was non-existent, especially in the second half as the Falcons failed to score.
Here are five things I learned from Saturdays BGSU/MTSU game.
1. This is not the Bowling Green offense of the last three years. There are many reasons for that, mainly because the Falcons lost a ton of talent after last season. You are also going through another coaching change (more on that later). The Falcons hired Mike Jinks to replace Dino Babers hoping he could keep the up-tempo offense in place that had been so successful the past few years. But we are learning that the Redd Raiders offense Jinks brought from Texas tech isn’t as effective right now. Again, it had a lot to do with the fact the players running it now aren’t as good.
2. Jinks walked into a rebuild rather than a reload. It was wishful thinking that Jinks could come in and keep the program at the same level it has been at the last three years. Much of that success can be traced to former head coach Dave Clawson, who put together some outstanding recruiting classes. Babers was able to bring that talent to fruition the last two years, but now almost all of it is gone. Jinks will need to put some solid recruiting classes together himself if he’s going to get the Falcons playing championship football again.
3. Josh Cleveland can be a nice weapon for the Falcons. The junior college transfer from Navarro College is proving to be a playmaker. He had 153 yards on 18 carries on Saturday, with a touchdown. He was a nice change of pace to senior starter Fred Coppet. He’s listed at 5’ 8” and 176 pounds, but that may be generous. He’s not built to be the every down back that runs between the tackles. But get him the ball on the edge and he can make plays.
4. Bowling Green defense still giving up big plays. The Falcons defense actually fared better against Middle Tennessee for a good part of the game but still gave up way topo many big plays. The Blue Raiders scored on a 53-yard run and 78-yard touchdown pass. They also gave up a big 34-yard pass play just before halftime that set-up a crucial touchdown by Middle Tennessee that gave them a lead they would never surrender.
5. Someone forgot to hook up the drain on the new artificial turf at Bowling Green. New artificial turf was installed at Doyt Perry Stadium this past summer. By all accounts it looks great. Then the rains came. Most of Saturday’s game was played in a torrential downpour. Water puddled noticeably across many parts of the new field. The Falcon logo at mid-field even began to bubble from all the water laying under the surface. The referees stop the game at one point to confer with coaches and the Bowling Green grounds crew, before determining the game could resume.