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Bowling Green defense posts best showing of season in 17-13 win over Miami (OH)

Falcons finally find their defensive footing by holding Miami to under 100 yards in both the run and pass departments.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Bowling Green at Mississippi State Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bowling Green witnessed remarkable defensive improvement from 2020 to 2021. The Falcons logged four All-MAC defenders and fielded their best scoring defense since 2015, with a specialty in containing the opposing aerial attacks.

But through the first six games of the 2022 season, the Falcons regressed back to what was the norm from 2015 to 2021. Bowling Green entered Saturday ranked bottom five nationally in scoring defense and passing defense. It’s never too late to flip the script, and that’s what the Falcons did in a 17-13 win over Miami (OH) on Saturday.

After allowing 28 points or greater in each of its first six games, Bowling Green kicked it into another gear against Miami to stymie the RedHawks to 13. The Falcons entered the contest yielding 311 passing yards per game, but their pass rush and coverage served as the epitome of mutualism, and Miami only managed 91 yards through the air. Bowling Green stamped its logo all over the backfield to register four sacks and generate a ton of pressure on Miami quarterback Aveon Smith. The result was nine completions.

Ever since losing quarterback Brett Gabbert to injury Week 1, Miami rebranded its offensive strategy as a more ground-oriented team. But Bowling Green shut the door on that facet of the game as well, stifling the RedHawks to 2.9 yards per carry and 91 total rushing yards. Even though the defense strangled Miami below 100 yards in both the run and pass departments, Bowling Green needed a late offensive spark to glide past the RedHawks.

Trailing 13-10 with under 14 minutes remaining, quarterback Matt McDonald captained an efficient 6-play, 55-yard series by completing a slew of short passes. Upon reaching the 19-yard line, the Falcons unleashed running back Ta’ron Keith. The same player who scored the game-winning touchdown to knock off Marshall at Doyt Perry Stadium four weeks prior did the same to Miami. Keith powered his way up the middle and found daylight for a go-ahead 19-yard touchdown as 11:31 remained in the contest.

Keith’s touchdown provided Bowling Green its first lead of the second half. The Falcons took a 7-3 lead in the second quarter when McDonald guided a methodical drive which was capped off by a short touchdown run by 6’4”, 230 pound tight end Harold Fannin Jr. Fannin, a seldom used true freshman, made the most of his opportunity by playing a pivotal role in both touchdown drives. Overall, the tight end logged 25 receiving yards and 25 passing yards and should be a more-frequented target as the season progresses.

Although Miami’s offense didn’t click to the degree that Bowling Green’s did, the RedHawks’ defense nearly did enough to escape with a road victory. The RedHawks won the turnover battle 2-1 with a key interception in the end zone to open the second quarter. Also, they provided ample pressure on McDonald throughout the afternoon, securing four sacks in a pass rush spearheaded by Corey Suttle. Besides Suttle, safety Michael Dowell and inside linebacker Ryan McWood were highly visible playmakers, pitching in 17 and 11 tackles, respectively, in the RedHawks’ third time allowing fewer than 15 points this season.

There were missed opportunities for Miami’s defense, however. Bowling Green attempted two fourth downs — one deep in its own territory — and both times, McDonald picked up substantial yardage with his legs. One of those fourth down conversions was the impetus of a touchdown drive. Like McDonald did on those fourth downs, Bowling Green’s rushing offense picked up sizable chunks throughout the game on the ground with Jaison Patterson serving as the ringleader. Patterson posted the highest rushing output of any Falcon in 2022 by attaining 94 yards on 18 carries.

Bowling Green rebounded from a Week 6 loss to improve to 2-1 in MAC play and 3-4 overall, keeping bowl hopes plausible as the team aims for its first postseason invite since 2015. The Falcons aim to improve to .500 next week in their final Saturday game of 2022 at Central Michigan.

The RedHawks also sport a 3-4 overall record, but they remain a step behind in the MAC East race at 1-2 in league play. Miami returns to Yager Stadium to play host to Western Michigan, hoping to preserve its undefeated home record this season.