The Bowling Green Falcon football team is now 0-3 against teams from the west division of the Mid-Falcons, reigning MAC east division champs, lost to the Ball State Cardinals 41-24 on Friday afternoon.Conference. The
The Falcons (7-5, 5-3) will get another shot at a west division opponent when they face the Northern Illinois Huskies in the MAC Championship Game at Ford Field on December 5. The game will be a rematch of last year's game, won by the Falcons 47-27.
The Falcons had lost earlier this year to Toledo and Western Michigan, both among the west division's best. Losing to the Cardinals (5-7, 4-4) who have struggled much of the year is another story. Plus, all this on Senior Day in front of the home crowd at Doyt Perry Stadium. Not exactly the momentum builder head coach Dino Babers was looking for.
"They (players) better be excited about having another opportunity to play next week again and be able to put this game behind them," says Babers. "That's not our football team and not how we want people to view our football team."
If any of the few thousand fans got to the game late they missed some early fireworks. The score was 14-7 Falcons just 131 seconds into the game. Travis Greene took a handoff and raced 75 yards on the first play from scrimmage to put the Falcons up 7-0. Three plays later, the Cardinals tied the game on a 62-yard pass from quarterback Ozzie Mann to KeVonn Mabon. Then, freshman Clint Stephens took the opening kick-off back 96 yards for a Bowling Green touchdown.
Still in the first quarter, the Falcons got a 2-yard rushing touchdown from Fred Coppet to make the score 21-7. Coppet had a 69-yard dash earlier to open that drive that took the ball down to the Ball State 13-yard line. Coppet and Green both went over 100 yards rushing in the first half, the second time the Falcons have had two running backs rush for more than 100 yards in the same game this year. The Falcons rushed for 232 yards as team in the first half.
The second quarter was all Ball State as they reeled off 17 straight unanswered points to take a 24-21 lead at halftime. Mann did most of the damage through the air with touchdown passes to Chris Shillings and Jordan Williams. Mann, who was named the starter earlier in the week, finished the opening half with 214 yards passing and three touchdowns. Former starter Jack Milas, was injured last week and is reported to be the better passer of the two. You'd have a hard time convincing the Falcons.
To open the second half, the Cardinals picked-up right where they left off, driving deep into Bowling Green territory before settling on a Scott Secor 33-yard field goal to push their lead to 27-21. The Falcons answered back with a field goal of their own, this one from 38 yards by Tyler Tate to cut the Ball State lead to 27-24.
The snow began to fall and Ball State's Jahwan Edwards took over. The Cardinals marched 63 yards in five plays with Edwards scoring on a one yard plunge to give them a 34-24 lead. Edwards had 54 yards rushing on that drive alone and that's how the third quarter ended.
After the Falcons failed to convert a fourth down attempt from the Ball State 25-yard line, the Cardinals put together an 80 yard drive that was capped off by another Edwards scoring jaunt (13 yards) that made the score 41-24. That eliminated any real doubt in this one as just 7:32 remained in the game.
Mann finished 20 of 29 for 286 yards and the three touchdowns. Edwards finished with 165 yards on 26 carries and two scores. Mabon led the Cardinals recovers with 119 yards on six receptions.
Knapke suffered through another ineffective outing going 18-27 for 140 yards. Greene led the Falcons on the ground with 167 yards on just 14 carries and Coppet had 140 yards on 16 carries. However, both players limped off with injuries late in the game and it will be interesting to see if those linger into next week's championship game. The Falcons finished with 314 yards on the ground in this game.
"This was not an offensive, defensive or special teams thing," said Babers. "When you play this bad the head coach has to take responsibility for it. This is on me and I'll get it fixed."
Unfortunately, heading into the league championship game is not the time to be "fixing things." Last year's Falcon team went into Detroit with a head of steam and it showed by the outcome.
"I still believe there is a game out there that can hopefully right the wrongs that have happened this season," said Babers. "I still have faith in these players, our coaches and myself and we'll get this right."
The MAC's biggest stage will provide the setting for that next week!