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2023 MAC Football Week 2 Game Preview: Eastern Illinois Panthers @ Bowling Green Falcons

BGSU, reeling from a loss on the road to start the season, will look for answers to what ails them against EIU.

Eastern Illinois v Indiana Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Bowling Green struggled out of the gate in a 34-24 loss to the Liberty Flames. Going down 24-0 early, along with five interceptions, would not help their comeback chances.

It’s FCS week for Bowling Green. The Falcons are 3-2 in their last 5 FCS games, losing to South Dakota (2017) and Eastern Kentucky (2022, 7 OT).

Game notes

  • Time and date: Saturday, September 9th, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. ET
  • Network: ESPN+
  • Location: Doyt Perry Stadium in Bowling Green, Ohio
  • All-time series: First meeting

Bowling Green Falcons outlook

What needs to happen for the Falcons to make sure they win this game? Well, the obvious place to look is the quarterback play.

The passing is currently second to last in the MAC in yards. It has to be better, considering the next three games after this week are Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia Tech. Connor Bazelak and Camden Orth combining for five interceptions ultimately led to their demise against Liberty, but even if the duo didn’t throw those interceptions, they still would have been under a 50% completion rate combined. Those are simply unacceptable numbers for starting FBS quarterbacks. The Falcons need to make better throws in order to have success this week, which falls more on Bazelak as the listed starter than Orth. (To his credit, Orth did have a passing touchdown.)

The Falcons were decent at running the ball with 191 yards last week, averaging 6.1 yards/rush. Ta’Ron Keith and Terion Stewart combined for 124 of those yards, with Ta’Ron Keith finding the end zone for a rushing touchdown. Bowling Green is currently second in the MAC for rushing yards. You have to be pleased with that, but they need to keep up that standard.

Odieu Hiliare and Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim are proving to be that 1-2 receiving punch for the Falcons this year. They combined for 68 pecent of the receiving yards in Week 1.

The Falcons defense actually played pretty well in Week 1, despite the circumstances. The one thing Bowling Green’s defense needs to work on heading in is slowing down the run game. The Flames accumulated 246 rushing yards last week. Is Eastern Illinois as good as Liberty? Probably not, but if the Falcons don’t do well against the run, they could be in for a long day on defense.

It’s fair to assume that Liberty wasn’t necessarily a pass first offense, but the Falcons did a nice job limiting that to under 150 passing yards.

Special teams defense was crucial for keeping the Falcons around in week one. Don’t be surprised if special teams blocks another kick. The Panthers are no stranger to going for two so far this year. They’ve missed one PAT, and have failed to convert on two-point conversions twice.

Eastern Illinois Panthers outlook

The Eastern Illinois Panthers, famously the job former BGSU coach Dino babers held down before leading the Falcons to glory, have a team who went 3-19 over the course of ‘21 and ‘22. They collected a fourth win in the last three seasons this past week, demolishing Indiana State.

What kind of team will they bring?

The Panthers passing attack is led by Pierce Holley. The redshirt junior made his Panther debut last week after transferring from Georgetown. Holley went 19-of-30 for 244 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

The primary rusher seems to be Kevin Daniels, who also made his Panther debut after transferring from Northern Arizona. He ended with 13 attempts for 57 yards, this would be the majority of the Panthers rushing total as they had 94 total yards. If the Panthers are able to wear down the Falcons, their rushing attack could have a good day.

The three leading receivers are Eli Mirza, Justin Bowick, and Cooper Willman. While no one amassed 100 receiving yards, the three did combine for 196 of the 244 yards.

The Eastern Illinois defense came up with four interceptions last week, two of which were pick-sixes by Tyris Harvey and Nijhay Burt. They are probably looking forward to Saturday with how vulnerable Bowling Green’s passing attack looks after one week. Adding on 69 total tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, and allowing zero points, this defense is not to be overlooked.

Game Prediction

This seems to be a get right game for Bowling Green, but they cannot overlook the Panthers. Every part of the team still needs to perform, but this is the game that the quarterbacks need badly. If Bowling Green’s quarterbacks play better, no matter who they go with, the Falcons should not have a problem coming away with the win.

Bowling Green 35 - Eastern Illinois 14