Beat a Big Ten team? Check! Become bowl eligible? Check! Win the MAC East? Check! Make a return trip to Detroit to play in the MAC Championship Game? Check! Beat your bitter rival, something you haven’t done in the last four tries? Stay tuned!
The Bowling Green Falcons outlasted the Kent State Golden Flashes in a nationally-televised game Wednesday night, 30-20. With the win, the Falcons become the first team to win the MAC East in consecutive years since Marshall did it in 1997-2000. They also will be the first MAC East team to make back-to-back appearances in the MAC Championship Game since Miami in 2003 and 2004.
The Falcons jumped out early on the Flashes and hung on in this one. An Andre Givens six-yard rushing touchdown, an 82-yard strike from James Knapke to Roger Lewis, and a Tyler Tate field goal had the Falcons up 17-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The slumbering Kent State offense finally put a drive together just before half and got a 21-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Colin Reardon to Chris Humphrey to make the score close, 20-7.
The biggest concern in the first half for the Falcons was watching starting tailback Fred Coppet limp off several times with a leg injury. Coppet got the start in place of All-MAC performer, Travis Greene, who's dealing with his own injury. Greene didn't dress for the game and was on the sidelines wearing a boot to protect his left ankle, injured against Akron last week. Coppet spent the second half on the BG sidelines in street cloths.
The Flashes made it a game in the third quarter when Reardon and Humphrey hooked up on a score again, this time from four yards out to make it 20-14, BG. The Flashes had the ball again driving deep into Falcon territory when Bowling Green's Gabe Martin picked-off a Reardon pass. The Falcons proceeded to drive the ball down inside the Flashes five yard line before settling for a Tate 21-yard field goal to make it 23-14 BG.
The Flashes cut the lead back to a one possession game with a Reardon to Casey Pierce 14-yard touchdown pass, however the extra point was missed and the Falcons held a 23-20 lead with 9:40 left in the game.
The Falcons answered right back with a touchdown drive of their own to make the score 30-20, with 7:47 to play. Givens scored again, this time from two yards out, but it was big pass plays from Knapke to Burbrink and Lewis that propelled the drive into the red zone. After another pair of Reardon interceptions, the Falcons were able to wind down the clock and hold on for the hard-fought 30-20 victory.
Knapke finished the game 22-for-37 for 315 yards and a touchdown for Bowling Green. "I think James had his best performance since the Indiana game," said Falcon head coach Dino Babers. "I thought he was on fire and on target all night."
Givens had 166 yards on 38 carries and two touchdowns. Lewis and Burbrink both went over 100 yards receiving for the game with 116 and 11 yards respectively. "Andre had 38 carries and that's the most we have given it to any running back this year," said Babers. "It was his time to support the family and go to work, and he did."
Reardon, who did not start the game for the Flashes, ended up 24-for-37 for 284 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw four interceptions. The Bowling Green defense continued its late-season resurgence by holding the Flashes to only 22 rushing yards while forcing five Kent State turnovers.
The Falcons are MAC East champs but had some trouble putting away a 1-8 Kent State team. In another midweek game next Wednesday, the Falcons travel up I-75 to play their longtime rival Toledo. The Falcons haven't beaten the Rockets since 2009.
"Some things in life are just not fair," said Babers. "For our seniors to go through a four-year career and not beat their arch rival is not fair. Hopefully we can prepare this week and get that done for them."
With a trip to Detroit already wrapped-up, and the Falcons down to their third-string running back, it will be interesting to see what transpires in that game. Especially when you consider the Rockets are down to their fourth-string quarterback, a guy who was playing wide receiver before this week. It promises to be another must watch #MACtion event!