Times are good in Bowling Green, Ohio. The Falcons have a new head coach in Scot Loeffler, and won their opening game against Morgan State, 46-3. New QB Darius Wade even won MAC East player of the week honors, to boot.
The good vibes will be put to the test as the Falcons travel on the road for the first time in the Loeffler era to take on the Kansas State Wildcats.
There are similarities; the Wildcats have a new head coach in Chris Klieman, with his three FCS national titles at North Dakota State, replacing Bill Snyder, who was such a legend in Manhatten Kansas that the stadium is named after him and his family.
While there is a taste of fall in the Midwestern air surrounding the ever windy Bowling Green, Manhattan, Kansas is not quite on the same weather pattern as it is projected to be humid and it the low 90’s on Saturday for kickoff. In a week where Florida State head coach Willie Taggert bemoaned his players hydration in a loss to Boise State, staying cool and hydrated is mainstream stuff.
K-State won their opener handily vs FCS foe Nicholls State, 49-14 with all 14 of Nicholls States points coming in the second half after the game had pretty much been decided.
Quarterback Skylar Thompson came on strong late last season and will now be playing in an offensive system, which produced numerous big play pro prospect QB’s at NDSU. Thompson didn’t disappoint in the opener as the junior went 16-22 for 212 yards and a touchdown. He also had 30 yards and a touchdown rushing.
Keep an eye out for highly touted redshirt freshman John Holcombe. The backup quarterback could play a Blake Bell/Tim Tebow short yardage type of role vs the Falcons. Standing a robust six-foot-four, 249 lbs, he had three rushes for 39 yards in the opener.
Old Mid-American Conference friend James Gilbert, formerly of Ball State, is the Wildcats go-to back. Gilbert had himself a day in his first game in Kansas’ Little Apple, rushing 18 times for 115 yards with a TD. But Gilbert was one of just six Wildcat ball carriers with at least 30 yards rushing, as K-State ran the ball 58 times for 364 yards and five touchdowns.
A veteran receiving core for Kansas State is let by senior Dalton Schoen, who had three catches for 65 yards in the opener. Malik Knowles also added three catches a week ago. By having so much success running the ball there didn’t seem to be much reason for K-State to show much of their passing attack.
The Wildcats success running the ball should be no surprise when you see that their offensive line is projected to be all-seniors starting on Saturday across the line.
Bowling Green’s defense is among the nation's NCAA leaders following their standout performance against Morgan State, a vast improvement from a year ago. It will likely be a world of difference going from fledgling FCS program Morgan State to Power Five staple Kansas State.
In a week where Bowling Green allowed just four first downs, 24 yards passing and 46 yards rushing, it became hard to pick just a few Falcon defenders to discuss.
Linebacker Brandon Perce added seven tackles to go with half a sack in his first action as a Falcon. Jerry Roberts and Jerry McBride also had standout games defensively in the opener. Defensive tackle Nico Lautanten provides beef in the center of the defensive line which will be needed to stop the Wildcat rushing attack.
On defense, defensive end Reggie Walker was named preseason all-Big 12 but enters the week with the dreaded “or” next to his name on the K-State depth chart.
The banged up Wildcats hope to have linebacker Cody Fletcher and defensive back Johnathan Durham back from injury vs BG.
In week one, DaQuan Patton had five tackles and Lance Robinson added four of his own.
While holding Nicholls State to 14 points seems like a good day, there are signs of hope for BGSU. They allowed Nicholls State to go 10 of 18 passing, and also allowed 150 yards rushing across 23 attempts, which is an average of 6.5 yards per carry. These are modest numbers but numbers which could have been improved upon had K-State not held the ball for an ungodly 41 minutes.
Kansas State is a hard working, blue collar defense but will be seeing a step up in competition from Nicholls to Bowling Green.
Darius Wade is a former Power Five starter, who showed exceptional mobility in the opener. He won't be intimidated playing in front of a larger crowd and those feet could be needed to bail out the Falcons.
The fact that K-State allowed over six yards per carry bodes well for a Falcon offense, coached by Loeffler, who wants to use tempo and run the football. The Falcons will be able to rotate between all-MAC candidate Andrew Clair, powerful transfer Davon Jones and Bryson Denley with Wade added to the ground fun.
Clair, who could play for many Big 12 teams, was third team all-MAC a year ago over then Ball State running back James Gilbert, now with K-State. Look for Clair and Jones to rehash their thunder and lightning roles from a year ago.
Quintin Morris, Christian Sims, Austin Dorris (if healthy) and Julian Ortega Jones are receiving options, who possess power five size. After impressive openers, they will look to do it on the bigger stage this Saturday. Morris showed impressive chemistry with Wade in the opener.
The Falcons offensive line is experienced but cant rely on Wade’s feet to bail them out. They will have their hands full on Saturday.
And since kickers are people too…
With field position likely to come at a premium, punter Matt Naranjo will look to continue his strong season. Kicker Nate Needham, who barely missed from 51 yards in the opener will need to be big to not leave any points on the board.
For Kansas State, kicker Blake Lynch hit from 37 yards in his only attempt of the opener.
Anytime a member of our beloved Mid-American Conference (or the MAC-C for those uninformed) goes on the road vs a power five school, the odds are long and this matchup is no different.
It is hard to say that Bowling Green is as good as their dominate week one performance, just as we don’t know where K-State truly stands after opening vs a FCS school.
While I see some positives, like Bowling Green’s rushing offense vs K-State’s rush defense, I see troubling signs.
Bowling Green is still trying to find their depth. By having twenty or so walk on’s, they do not have the depth of some other schools especially a power five school like Kansas State. K-State is going to look to impose their will on the Falcons and truly test how good their defense is. On a day which is projected to be hot and humid, the Falcons will need to find stops and rotate players in and out. If not K-State could have the ball for a long time and keep Falcon play-makers like Wade and Clair by the Gatorade coolers.
I don’t see the blow out that some are projecting. I believe that BGSU is feeling confident and are well coached. I believe that their backs are going to get theirs, but they will need to play near perfect football to beat Kansas State, which means limiting their penalties (a minor issue from the opener).
I expect Bowling Green to hang around and keep it close until the depth comes into play and Kansas State pulls away.