Bowling Green (0-2) hoped to be able to find a result which could ease the pain of a blowout season-opening loss on the road with an FCS tune-up against Eastern Kentucky (1-1,)
Instead, the Falcons found themselves in one of the most stressful games of the young 2022 college football season, a seven-overtime thrill ride which was lost in walk-off fashion on a wheel route which had to stretch out for that extra yard— after digging their way out of a 14-point deficit in the second half to force extra play to begin with.
At the end of the day, BGSU fell by a final score of 59-57 on their home grounds to a punchy Eastern Kentucky team.
The game started off in a fairly standard fashion, with BGSU picking up two quick scores in the first quarter, with Mason Lawler booting a 45-yard field goal and CJ Lewis reeling in a Matt McDonald touchdown pass to get up to a 10-0 margin.
EKU would find their first points of the day at the end of an eight-play, 80-yard drive, with Parker McKinney finding Jayden Higgins for the first of what would be several crucial receptions, getting the Colonels within a possession.
The Falcons answered with a flash play on the next possession, as Matt McDonald found paydirt from 30 yards out to put BG back up by two scores. EKU kept pace with a field goal from 24 yards out to end a nine-play, 70 yard drive and get to a 17-10 gap.
That’s where the tone of the game would ultimately shift.
An errant snap on second-and-seven on the next BGSU drive saw the ball dribble backwards 28 yards into the endzone, with the Colonels’ Jadyn Bost ultimately getting hold of it for a defensive touchdown, tying the game up.
The Colonels added 14 more points to their coffers from there, with a Braedon Sloan 13-yard run to end the first half and a Parker McKinney pass to Cornelius McCoy to cap a 12-play, 82 yard drive in the third quarter.
Suddenly. Bowling Green found themselves down 14 points, needing to mount a comeback before EKU got too far away.
The Falcons offense would do just that and then some, going on a 21-0 run, with McDonald connecting with CJ Lewis for 34 yards and Tyrone Broden for 20 yards to even the scoreline back up with 8:55 remaining in regulation. Then, a blocked punt by PaSean Wimberly would grant BGSU an additional possession, which they cashed in with a Jaison Patterson score from two yards out, putting the score at 38-31 with 3:39 remaining.
The Colonels would reel off an impressive 13-play, 72-yard drive to get to the BGSU three-yard line with a handful of seconds remaining— aided in part by consecutive BGSU penalties on second and third downs gifting EKU 20 free yards.
On the last play in regulation, Parker McKinney would find Jayden Higgins for the short passing score, pulling the game even at 38 to force overtime at the triple-zeros.
This is where the game truly began, as the Falcons would go on offense first in overtime.
BGSU and EKU exchanged short rushing scores in the first overtime, while the second overtime would also end in touchdowns. Unfortunately for both teams, their two-point conversions failed, forcing the third overtime— and the dreaded conversion derby.
The Falcons converted first, with a pass to Christian Sims. EKU started their first conversion try from the 18-yard line instead of the traditional three-yard line due to an offensive pass interference wiping away the previous play. They would find a way to convert anyway, as Jayden Higgins, who committed the OPI, made up for it in a big way.
The fourth overtime saw mutual scores, while the fifth overtime saw mutual misses, setting up sixth overtime at a score of 55-55.
BGSU linebacker Brock Horne would commit defensive pass interference to start the new period, giving EKU the ball at the 1.5-yard line. Braedon Sloan would convert the play, giving EKU the lead 57-55.
Odieu Hilare would come up clutch once again in the extra periods, converting the BGSU try to tie the score 57-57 and force a seventh overtime. BG would possess first in the new period, but the pass attempt went in and out of the hands of tight end Levi Gazarek, granting EKU a potential walk-off opportunity.
The Colonels would do just that, with Parker McKinney finding running back Braedon Sloan on the wheel route to the left near corner of the endzone, with Sloan diving to get the ball across the goal line and avoid the incoming tackler, putting the final tally at 59-57.
Matt McDonald showed out for the Falcons, going 23-of-40 for 283 yards and six total touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) with no interceptions, while also leading the Falcon rushing attack with 64 yards on five carries.
Ta’Ron Keith had lead back duties, with 61 yards on 15 carries, while Jaison Patterson scored once on 18 carries, gaining 48 yards. Four Falcons receivers had at least four catches, with CJ Lewis (three catches, 60 yards) hauling in two touchdowns to lead BGSU. Odieu Hilaire led BG with seven catches for 60 yards and a score, pulling several conversion tries to keep the Falcons afloat.
Defensively, it was a brutal day for BGSU, giving up 431 yards and 10-of-20 on third-down conversions. Chris Bacon led the Falcons with 10 tackles, while an incredible six different BG defenders all notched a solo sack. Three players also notched pass break-ups, with Jordan Anderson (seven tackles) picking up an interception.
Parker McKinney shined for the triumphant Colonels, finishing 33-of-43 for 324 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Braedon Sloan (nine rushes, 56 yards; seven receptions for 52 yards) was a pivot player for the offense throughout the day, with Jaden Smith (seven catches, 102 yards) leading all receivers, while Jayden Higgins was a short-yardage target, with two touchdowns on five receptions, picking up 28 yards. Higgins proved to be a key contributor at the end of the game and in the overtime periods, with several targets in those situations.
Chase Lasater (12 tackles, one tackle-for-loss) and Matthew Jackson (10 tackles, .5 tackle-for-loss, two pass break-ups) paced the defense for EKU, with eight different Colonels picking up at least a half tackle-for-loss and seven different Colonels with at least one QB hurry.
BGSU will need to turn things around in a hurry, as they’re set to play a Marshall Thundering Herd team fresh off an upset win against a ranked Notre Dame team next Saturday evening.
EKU, who received some votes in the FCS Top 25 for their performance against EMU last week, finally get to play in front of their home fans for the first time next weekend— perhaps with a number next to their name— when they host Charleston Southern.