Saturday was a chamber of commerce fall day for Bowling Green as the Falcons hosted the Central Michigan Chippewas in a matchup of programs with first year head coaches with Scot Loeffler against former Florida head coach Jim McElwain.
I owe James and Central Michigan an apology
I have been slow to come around on the idea of Central Michigan as a good football team.
Our resident Central alum James has been high on the Chippewa’s all season (just look back at his pin-em down picks).
Well, I am here to say that I now believe that James wasn’t just drinking Jim McElwain’s kool-aid and that Central Michigan is a good team, maybe even a very good team.
The Central win puts the Chippewas at five and three with two loses coming to power five schools in Wisconsin and Miami, who they played close. The other loss came in a rivalry game to Western Michigan.
5-3 and winners of three straight.
The 5-3 mark combined with the imploding of Toledo and Eastern’s upset over Western puts Central in the drivers seat within the MAC West.
Win out and they will be making the cross state drive to Detroit for the MAC Championship game.
The schedule won’t do them any favors.
After a road trip to Buffalo, they host Northern Illinois. The Huskies may not look like their usual MAC powerhouse but history says that November is when NIU typically makes their move.
The final two weeks on Central’s slate could be dandys if CMU can keep winning until then.
Week 11 at Ball State, in a game which as of now stands to decide the MAC West.
Before week 12 hosting Toledo, who no one seems to know just what type of team the Rockets are anymore.
The program a year ago looked lost and a shell of its prideful former self. Now a year later and they are playing Chippewa football again, taking on the identity of their head coach as they move towards the front of the MAC race.
Several Falcons have wings clipped-
During our preseason coverage, I mentioned how Bowling Green had little room for injury. The program suffered mass defections during its switch from the Mike Jinks era to the Scot Loeffler era.
At one point it was mentioned that BGSU had near twenty walk-ons on their roster.
Well, the list of grounded Falcons continued to grow on Saturday.
Star back Andrew Clair was joined by guard Sam Neverov in missing their third straight game and safety Jerry McBride III is out for the remainder of his senior season.
The blows kept coming as starting defensive end Karl Brooks was lost to an injury early.
Receiver Julian Ortega-Jones took a rough hit and was forced to leave the game but returned.
The Falcons dodged another scare when their other end, Captain David Konowalski left with a lower body injury. Konowalski had missed last season due to an injury but he would return.
The big injury came to one of the Falcons thinnest positions.
Already missing Clair, Davon Jones had been carrying the load. Jones would leave after just one carry for six yards. The aftermath of the injury did not look good and Jones was later spotted out of uniform on the sideline while using crutches to get around.
The Falcons entered play with just three scholarship running backs and without Jones the Falcons had to rely on mobile quarterback Grant Loy more than they would have liked to establish a ground game.
Bryson Denley continued his solid season with 67 yards on 11 carries. Slot receiver RB Marlow saw five carries out of the back field for BGSU and true freshman Trevon Raymore, from Norwalk Ohio, saw his first collegiate action.
It certainly looks as if the Falcons will be without Jones for an extended period of time and there has yet to be an update on the status of Andrew Clair. Expect the Falcons to continue to turn to Loy, Denley, Marlow and perhaps Raymore to develop a run game.
One thing is for sure, a trying season could get much more challenging if the injuries continue to mount.
Jonathan Ward and a big play offense
With scouts from the Senior Bowl on hard, Jonathan Ward continued his strong season by topping the 2,000 career rushing yards mark for the Chips.
He would have 21 carries for 130 yards and three touchdowns.
He would have a long run of 40 yards while Kobe Lewis would have add a long run of 51 yards enroute to 15 carry day worth 125 yards and another rushing touchdown.
Central Michigan would finish with 254 yards rushing and a 6.4 per carry average against a depleted Falcons D.
Quinten Dormany was solid in the victory, finishing 22 of 36 for 295 yards while having both a touchdown and a pick.
Tight end Tony Poljan had four receptions, including a 53 yard rumbling reception.
Jacorey Sullivan had eight receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown.
The 299 yards passing added to 553 yards of total offense against the Falcons.
The Chippewa offensive line kept an underrated Falcon pass rush from registering a sack. Although injuries to David Konowalski and Karl Brooks didn’t hurt that effort.
It seemed as if whenever the Falcons had some momentum or scored that the Chips would hit a big play to shift the tide.
A point of note, coach Jim McElwain employed Tommy Lazzaro as a third quarterback option early as a scheme piece with his better wheels. (Does that make him Third Down Tommy Lazzaro?)
In each of their five wins, Central Michigan has scored at least 38 points and have not been held under 30 points since 15 point showing in defeat to Western.
With Dormany returning to health, Central has shown a balanced attack, capable of breaking big play after big play.
Even if Saturday’s game was against one of the MAC’s worst defenses.
Missed Chances For Falcons
Central Michigan was undoubtedly the better team on Saturday.
That’s not to say that the Falcons didn’t show a lot of heart during their fight. They were simply too banged up and outmatched against a Chippewa team who is buying in.
With Central leading seven nothing and looking to punch in another score, Kholbe Coleman forced a fumble as he was crossing the goal line and it was scooped and scored for a 100 yard return by Caleb Biggers to tie a school record and tie the game.
Early in the third, the Falcons would again pull within a touchdown after Loy scored from three yards out.
Just a minute and twenty seconds later, Jonathan Ward would cap off a 65 yard drive for Central Michigan and essentially put the game out of reach.
The Falcons would also just miss a touchdown with a third down pass in the third quarter.
Ryan Tice for Central was just one for three on field goals, missing twice from over 50 yards but the Falcons couldn’t take better advantage.
The Falcons were just 1-11 on third down conversions, and gave the ball away three times on downs. Once late in the third and once early in the fourth with the game still in the air.
The Falcons were undisciplined with 12 penalties to 10 for CMU.
BGSU has certainly been more competitive with Loy at quarterback. However, his three interceptions during the defeat did the Falcons no favors. One was right before the end of the first half and largely had no impact.
They will need to capitalize on any and all opportunities next week against an angry Western Michigan squad.
Last season BGSU beat Central 24-13 with interim head coach Carl Pelini.
Both programs looked to be in competition for the MAC cellar for the next few years.
The programs both made strong hires with Central hiring former Colorado State and Florida head coach Jim McElwain, while BGSU went with longtime coordinator Scot Loeffler.
I felt as if both hires positioned their schools for contention…in 2020.
I apparently missed the mark with McElwain’s bunch by a year as he has Central in the driver’s seat for the MAC West.
The job he has done in revitalizing the Chippewas deserves multiple mentions in the piece.
While they are 5-3, BGSU is looking for their third victory.
Both schools suffered through an exodus of talent during their coaching changes.
Perhaps the cupboard in Mount Pleasant was not as bare in Bowling Green.
With all that being said, the Falcons are close.
They showed progress against Notre Dame and beat rival Toledo, although that victory looks admittedly less impressive a week later.
A few breaks or a couple fewer mistakes and this week’s game might have been different or at least closer.
The team is buying into Loeffler and while they may not be heading towards a bowl this winter, the trajectory is obviously pointing up for the Falcons.
It’s a shame that Central and BG are not in the same division as McElwain against Loeffler is a coaching matchup I would enjoy to see every year.
That is if McElwain doesn’t become sought after by larger schools here soon.