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Mississippi State’s air raid picks apart Bowling Green in Starkville, 45-14

Without head coach Scot Loeffler and QB Matt McDonald, Bowling Green struggles against Mike Leach’s air raid attack.

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Week 4 for Bowling Green was an iconic one. The Falcons were able to pull off a signature 14-10 victory over Minnesota to improve to 2-2, pulling off their most significant win since their mid-2010s MAC championship seasons.

Coming off a massive upset over Marshall, the Falcons looked to do the same in Week 4 again. The odds were certainly stacked against Bowling Green, which operated without head coach Scot Loeffler due to a personal health matter and starting quarterback Matt McDonald who was a late scratch due to an injury suffered against Marshall. Running backs coach Brian White took over Loeffler’s duties while Camden Orth served as the starting quarterback.

But with or without McDonald, one of two FBS quarterbacks with 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions this year, Bowling Green’s pass defense (which entered Saturday ranked second-to-last nationally) was completely outmatched by Mike Leach’s trademark air raid offense of Mississippi State. Led by Will Rogers’ 406 yards and six touchdown, the Bulldogs skated by the Falcons 45-14 without even the slightest adversity.

Rogers and the Bulldogs wasted no time generating the offense after coming up empty-handed in the fourth quarter last week in Baton Rouge. Mississippi State scored two touchdowns and a field goal on its first three sequences of the game to secure a 17-0 lead. Orth, making his first collegiate start in relief McDonald, responded by firing a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Broden — the first of Orth’s college career.

Mississippi State staged an urgent response to keep Bowling Green out of the picture. On the other side of the field, Rogers delivered a dime to wide receiver Caleb Ducking for a 26-yard score. Ducking finished the first half with two touchdown receptions, leading all Mississippi State receivers in the win with 96 yards.

The Bulldogs all but wrapped up the game when securing a 38-7 lead in the early moments of the third quarter. Still, Orth powered through to toss his second touchdown of the afternoon to finish the day 17-of-28 with 172 yards. Even with the quarterback change, Bowling Green’s passing offense remained its strong point, generating more than double the yardage through the air as it did on the ground — 28 carries for 79 yards.

Bowling Green fared well in both sides of the trenches entering the game, allowing just four sacks in its first three contests while accumulating 12 as a defense. Saturday’s trench battle didn’t favor the Falcons, but it didn’t go terribly either as both teams secured two sacks in the lopsided finish. Bowling Green also remained relatively free of turnovers, as Orth threw one interception to end the first half, but it didn’t come with much of a cost for the Falcons.

Bowling Green officially concludes non-conference play with a 1-3 record, securing its lone win over Marshall in overtime fashion. The Falcons travel to Akron next week as they begin their journey for at least five conference wins, which would secure their first bowl bid since 2015.