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Bowling Green Falcons vs. Memphis Tigers: 5 Things Learned

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BG faces harsh reality check after 77-3 loss

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Some losses in sports are good losses. They can be valuable learning experiences and help fix glaring mistakes that exist in the team’s personnel or talent on the field.

And then there are 77-3 losses to Memphis. Bowling Green, down 56-3 at halftime, failed to make any major adjustments in the largest FBS vs. FBS blowout of 2016. Several takeaways arise from the nightmare performance by the Falcons on Saturday night.

  1. This is a historically bad defense. When Bowling Green was pulverized by the Ohio State Buckeyes 77-10 on week one, it was an embarrassment to the 2015 MAC champions. But it was excused, as Urban Meyer’s team is widely considered one of college football’s best. That was the largest loss by an FBS team in 2016, until Memphis trounced the Falcons 77-3 on Saturday night. This is a Memphis team without star quarterback Paxton Lynch, who ended up as a first-round NFL draft pick. The Tigers offense that looked dominant only won their season opener 35-17 over the FCS’s Southeast Missouri State. This is a testament to how horrendous the Falcons defense is — allowing a nation-high 55.3 points per game. Louisiana-Lafayette holds the record of allowing 50.3 points per game, in 1997, a record the Falcons are on track to shatter. Bowling Green also allows 558 yards per game with an average point differential of -40, all ranking as the nation’s worst.
  2. James Knapke may not be the answer at quarterback. Experimenting at the quarterback position is often a tactic teams utilize when discovering that it is a lost season. This seems to be the case for Bowling Green (1-3, with a 27-26 victory over FCS North Dakota). Knapke, the MVP of the 2014 Camellia Bowl, may see the end of his tenure as the Falcons’ starting quarterback after his abundance of turnovers Saturday. The senior (3 touchdowns, 9 interceptions in 2016) was benched in favor of freshman James Morgan mid-game, after Knapke threw for 82 yards and 3 interceptions, completing 46.2 percent of passes. His QB rating was 3.4. Morgan received 34 attempts, throwing for only 126 yards and one interception. Nothing was spectacular about Morgan’s performance, but Knapke throwing two completions for every one interception may be a sign of concern for Bowling Green.
  3. Dino Babers made the right decision. In two seasons at Bowling Green, Babers fared 18-9, with a MAC Championship Game appearance in both years. Before the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl, Babers claimed the job at Syracuse, a struggling Power 5 program performing well under Bowling Green’s level. Following his departure, the Falcons were upset by the Sun Belt’s Georgia Southern 58-27 in the GoDaddy Bowl. And the team has not been the same since. Bowling Green has only cracked top 100 recruiting classes two out of the last four years, signifying the team was headed for a downward spiral after the losses of Matt Johnson and Roger Lewis. New head coach Mike Jinks assumed a difficult position, coaching a team stuck in a down year for Bowling Green. But before any decisions are made on Jinks, the Falcons should be patient because Western Michigan was with P.J. Fleck, who started 1-11 with his program before turning it back around.
  4. The punting game is solid. Bowling Green actually accumulated more yards punting than on offense — 379-294. Junior punter Joseph Davidson booted eight punts, averaging 47.4 yards per punt, with a long of 68. None of his punts were inside the Tigers’ 20-yard line but Bowling Green’s offense often did not navigate far enough downfield to allow Davidson to pin the Tigers deep. It is worth noting that Memphis actually punted six times, but zero were returned by Bowling Green. In a game of disastrous offense and defense by Bowling Green, punting was the one feature that was consistent and reliable.
  5. The torch has been passed. For those who are getting tired of Northern Illinois-Bowling Green MAC Championship Games, an annual tradition since 2013, this should be an exciting season. Northern Illinois lost to Western Illinois of the FCS on Saturday to fall to an 0-4 start, and Bowling Green is sitting at 1-3 and looks as beatable as ever. The fourth edition in Detroit looks like it will be canceled this season after both squads’ statement losses on Saturday.