There isn’t a lot of talking around it: the BGSU offense was one of the worst in most every metric in the country in 2021.
They were bottom two in the conference in scoring per game (21.4), rushing yards per game (102) and total offensive yards per game (316.8) in 2021, only topping their fellow MAC East basement-dweller Akron in scoring per game.
Even their one bright spot on offense, their passing (214.8 yards per game), was eclipsed by Akron (217.5), making BGSU the worst overall team in the conference on the offensive side of the ball. Luckily for BGSU, unlike their current bottom-rung rival Akron, most of their offensive skill position players come back intact, making 2022 a year for potential growth.
It’s the fourth year of the Scot Loeffler experience, and the difference between a fifth year and a pink slip could be this side of the ball, as Loeffler and crew are currently 7-22 over the last three seasons.
We examine the roster for the players who should take the field come September:
Matt McDonald, the former Boston College transfer, returns for his third campaign as the Falcons starter at QB. It hasn’t been an easy path for McDonald, who started his time at BGSU sitting on the bench due to a transfer issue.
His first season in 2020 saw him throw six interceptions to one touchdown, and finish with a 44 percent completion percentage in five games. 2021, then, was a much-needed improvement, as he finished the season with 2,555 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions on a 56 percent completion percentage, while adding value on the ground with four rushing touchdowns.
Take out the outlier game against Buffalo, however, and the overall numbers plummet, as he posted four passing scores and one on the ground.
McDonald’s growth will be what determines the direction of the offense; if he stays stagnant, it could be a rough season for the Falcons faithful, and signal a third rebuild in as many coaching tenures is nigh. If he can get to about 65 percent completion and hit 20 or so total touchdowns, it could be a boon.
Other quarterbacks on the roster include LIU transfer Camden Orth (143-of-260, 1,655 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2021) and Drew Gunther, who did not see action in 2020 or 2021 after transferring in from Syracuse in 2019.
Wide receivers and tight ends
The positive for BG’s passing attack is that their top three receiving options all return to the roster to help McDonald move the ball down the field.
Former Washington transfer— and high school teammate of McDonald— Austin Osborne returns after a season which saw him pull down a team-leading 64 receptions, 546 yards, and two touchdowns. Alongside him will be BGSU’s leader in receiving yards (596) and receiving touchdowns (5) in Tyrone Broden, who stands at an incredible six-foot-seven, 210 lbs., creating mismatch opportunities on the outside.
The third-leading receiver to return to the roster is tight end Christian Sims, who earned 2021 first-team all-MAC honors at the position after a campaign which saw him finish with 41 receptions for 418 yards and two touchdowns, averaging over 10 yards per reception.
Jhaylin Embry, who has contributed to the team primarily as a return specialist, converts to wide receiver after spending the last two seasons at running back, and should settle in as the third receiver after picking up 164 yards (an incredible 23 yards per catch) on just seven receptions in 2021.
Levi Gazarek, a six-foot-five, 250 lb. product of nearby North Baltimore, Ohio, is a reliable second tight end who has shown glimpses in both run blocking and out on routes, with 10 catches for 88 yards last year in 12 games (10 starts.) Former wide receiver Javonte Kinsey converts to tight end after redshirting in 2021, and should be a vertical threat option at six-foot-five, 230 lbs.
Running backs are a key part of the BGSU offense, though perhaps not in the typical way one might expect them to be.
Running backs made up three of the Falcons’ Top 10 receivers in 2021, with Taron Keith (26 receptions, 244 yards, one touchdown), Jamal Johnson (15 receptions, 149 yards, one touchdown), Jaison Patterson (12 receptions, 76 yards) and the aforementioned Embry all finding their way on the receiving tabs.
All of those players return to the fold in the backfield save for Embry, with Terion Stewart serving as the true halfback after picking up 412 yards on the ground on 70 carries in nine games, scoring five times. Stewart is expected to take the running duties once again, with Nick Mosley (77 rushes, 336 yards, two scores) expected as the change-of-pace back.
Patterson is a true dual-threat back who could see a lot of use on third down, with 65 rushes for 280 yards and two scores on the ground to add to his receiving prowess.