On Thursday night, the Bowling Green State Falcons traveled to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee to face the Tennessee Volunteers of the SEC, in a game which marked Josh Heupel’s debut as coach for the Vols. The game marked the Falcons first non-conference game since 2019, and their first since Dec. 5, after their planned Senior Night scheduled for the next week was cancelled.
Victory will have to wait for the Falcons (0-1), as despite a diligent effort in the second quarter, they still lost to the homestanding Volunteers (1-0) by a final score of 38-6.
Tennessee started fast in the first quarter, with former Michigan QB Joe Milton running the ball in from four yards out to put Tennessee 7-0, capping a 12-play, 66-yard drive. They weren’t done yet in the first quarter, as on their next drive, Tennessee went 67 yards in eight plays, capped off by a Jabari Small one yard score to go up 14-0.
It looked as if the Falcons were on the verge of being blown out, but BGSU seemed to find a bit of momentum in the second quarter to put a scare into the Volunteer faithful. The Falcons executed their ball control gameplan, finishing their 11-play, 70-yard drive with a florish, finding RB Jamal Johnson for 31 yards on a screen pass to eventually set up a Nate Needham 42 yard field goal, putting BGSU on the board at 14-3.
The Falcons and Needham weren’t done there, as the senior connected from 50 yards to cap off a 11 play, 48 yard drive which took 7:16 off the clock. The kick made it 14-6, and BGSU would go into the half down only eight on the road.
Ultimately, Tennessee found their footing again, and the Falcon offense couldn’t keep pace.
Tennessee opened the second half scoring with a Joe Milton one yard touchdown run, capping off an eight play 72 yard drive which took only 1:58 to score. Later in the third, HB Tiyon Johnson broke a daring cutback run for a 19-yard touchdown to cap another quick scoring drive for Tennessee, going up 28-6.
It was all Vols from there, as Chase McGrath kicked a field goal from 41 yards in the fourth, and Joe Milton would hit receiver Cedric Tillman on a 40-yard jump-ball to the back of the Tennessee endzone to cap off the box score.
For the Vols, Milton was only 11-of-23 passing with one passing touchdown, but added two rushing touchdowns to contribute to the Tennessee attack. Tiyon Evans took advantage of the BGSU run defense, picking up 124 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, while Jabari Small also had 117 yards in 22 carries with a touchdown.
For the Falcons, McDonald looked improved after a struggle of a 2020 campaign, going 25-of-38 for 187 yards against an SEC defense. The Falcons couldn’t find their footing in the run game, with Nick Mosley led the team with 36 yards on eight carries and Terrion Stewart had 13 yards on just seven carries.
Receiver Austin Osborne, a transfer from Washington, had a solid day with eight receptions for 46 yards, while Cavon Croom had 45 yards on five receptions. Linebacker Darren Anderson had 14 total tackles, including one tackle-for-loss, one sack and a forced fumble for the Falcons. Sy Dabney had ten total stops as well.
Nate Needham made two field goals of over 40 yards, including a career-long 50-yarder before the end of the first half.
Tennessee had 31 first downs to 11 for the Falcons. The Falcons were outrushed 354 to just 60 yards, as they averaged just 1.4 yards per carry. BGSU did have 187 yards passing to just 144 of the Volunteers.
Tennessee had 475 yards of total offense to 219 for the Falcons. BGSU was just 2-of-14 on third downs and 0-of-2 on fourth downs. BGSU did not have a turnover while Tennessee lost two fumbles.
Bowling Green returns home to Doyt Perry Stadium next weekend for a 4 PM kickoff against South Alabama.