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2023 MAC Football Week 1 Game Recap: Liberty Flames 34, Bowling Green Falcons 24

Bowling Green threw five interceptions on the way to a 34-24 loss at Liberty Saturday afternoon

NCAA Football: Boca Raton Bowl-Liberty at Toledo Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

What’s that commercial jingle? Right, “Liberty Liberty Liberty, Liberty”. If I got that stuck in your head, you’re welcome. Let’s take a look at a brief summation of the game:

  • Liberty marched down the field in 4:20 on their first series of the game, before Billy Lucas ran in from two yards out to open up the scoring account at 7-0 for LU.
  • BGSU struggled out of the gate, punting to end their first three drives, totaling 16 plays to Liberty’s 21 plays on their first three possessions.
  • Liberty scored again on their fourth drive to go up 14-0 when Kaiden Salter found Vaughn Blue with 8:18 to go in the first half.
  • Indiana transfer QB Connor Bazelak threw a pick-six into the hands of Liberty defender Teagan Lenderink, and then another interception on the first play of the ensuing series, which eventually resulted in a 10-point gain for the home team.
  • BGSU finally found the board with a rushing touchdown from Ta’Ron Keith with 3:36 to go in the third quarter, making the score 24-7.
  • The Falcons seemed to be moving the right direction after recovering a Quinton Cooley fumble, but gave it right back on Bazelak’s third interception of the night.
  • The Flames looked to go up 27-7, but Trent Simms picked up the blocked field goal and returned it to the house for a 10-point swing to make the score 21-14 going into the halftime break.
  • An Alan Anaya field goal from 34 yards out brought the Falcons within a possession at 24-17 with 11:36 to go in the third quarter.
  • Camden Orth would take over at QB for Bowling Green. The Flames and Falcons would trade touchdowns to make the game 31-24 Liberty— but two late interceptions would allow Liberty to ice the game with a field goal to bring the score to 34-24 with 2:52 remaining.
  • Liberty had 389 yards of offense to BG’s 328 yards.
  • The Falcons had almost six minutes less possession time than the Flames.
  • BG averaged 6.2 yards/rush, but Liberty had 55 more rushing yards (246 to 191.)


What can Bowling Green take from this loss? Here are some things they can be happy with, and some other questions that they need to ask:

Run the dang ball!

Bowling Green preached they were going to run the ball. They did, and the rushing attack looks way better than at any point in the Loeffler era. They ended with 191 rushing yards on the day, which is the highest total since the Miami game last year (176). Ta’Ron Keith led BG rushers with 69 yards, and Terion Stewart followed up with 55. If BG can keep up that rushing total, they’ll stay in their close games and hopefully keep a balanced offense.

Special Teams Strike Again

Bowling Green special teams blocked a field goal, continuing their dominance. Dontrez Brown got a hand on Liberty’s field goal attempt, and Trent Simms scored with 20 seconds left in the half.

On the flipside, kick returns have to be somewhat better. Starting some drives inside the the 25 seemed to stall the Falcons. They even started a drive at their one-yard line. Bowling Green will need to look at just biting the bullet with touchbacks so their backs aren’t against the wall when they start drives.


Bowling Green has a big decision to make after what they saw from both their quarterbacks. Obviously it’s hard to make a choice like that only one game in, with a hopeful “get right” game the next week. We’ll probably find out more after the next game. Regardless, passing has to be better with three explosive receivers. Going 11/31 on combined passes isn’t going to cut it.

Turnovers did not help the struggling offense throughout the game. Bazelak had three interceptions, while Orth threw two. Scot Loeffler said in his postgame presser, “We will get the passing game straight. We thought we would throw the ball really well today.” Who do the Falcons go with moving forward?


The defense played fairly well, despite the offense continuously turning over the football. 79 tackles, five tackles for loss, and two sacks seems pretty respectable considering the circumstances. However, the defense needs to get off the field in third-and-moderate/long. The defense gave up two third-and-seven looks and a third-and-eight as well. They need to be able to dig deep on those moments, and find a way to get those stops at moderate/long distance.

Grit and Fight

The other positive from this football game? Bowling Green was able to claw their way back into it. After going down 24-0, it felt like they could have rolled over. Knowing the Falcons wouldn’t quit they would get the game back to one possession. The tide almost turned as BG had two chances to tie the game, but unfortunately could not get points. If BG is to have more success, they can’t quit on themselves.

Next Up

The Falcons open Doyt Perry Stadium with a clash against the Eastern Illinois Panthers. Kickoff is set for 2:00 pm on ESPN+.