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Bowling Green Falcons Bowl History: Tragedy & Triumph

Falcon bowl history includes a game that raised money for the families of opposing players who perished in a plane crash returning home after a game at Bowling Green.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bowling Green Falcons will be making the 12th bowl appearance in their history when they take on the South Alabama Jaguars on December 20 in the inaugural Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama.  The Camellia Bowl will mark the third straight season that the Falcons have been selected for a bowl game. BGSU is 4-7 all-time in bowl games, with their last win coming in the 2004 GMAC Bowl (Mobile, Ala.). The bowl selection marks the first time in program history that Bowling Green has gone to a bowl game in three straight seasons.  Kickoff at the Cramton Bowl, between the Falcons and the Jaguars, will be at 9:15 p.m. ET.

Below is a recap of all 12 bowl games in Bowling Green history.

BGSU BOWL GAME HISTORY

1961 - Mercy Bowl (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Fresno State 36, Bowling Green 6

1982 - California Bowl (Fresno, Calif.)
Fresno State 29, Bowling Green 28

1985 - California Bowl (Fresno, Calif.)
Fresno State 51, Bowling Green 7

1991 - California Raisin Bowl (Fresno, Calif.)
Bowling Green 28, Fresno State 21

1992 - Las Vegas Bowl (Las Vegas, Nev.)
Bowling Green 35, Nevada 34

2003 - Motor City Bowl (Detroit, Mich.)
Bowling Green 28, Northwestern 24

2004 - GMAC Bowl (Mobile, Ala.)
Bowling Green 52, Memphis 35

2007 - GMAC Bowl (Mobile, Ala.)
Tulsa 63, Bowling Green 7

2009 - Humanitarian Bowl (Boise, ID)
Idaho 43, Bowling Green 42

2012 - Military Bowl (Washington, D.C.)
San Jose State 29, Bowling Green 20

2013 - Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Detroit, Mich.)
Pittsburgh 30, Bowling Green 27


1961 MERCY BOWL
Nov. 23, 1961 - Los Angeles Coliseum - 33,146

Bowling Green - 6
Fresno State - 36

In a one-time game to help defray the expenses (burial and medical) of families of the 16 members of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo football team who perished in a plane crash, Oct. 29, 1960, shortly after takeoff from Toledo Express Airport, Bowling Green and Fresno State, the undefeated champion of the California Collegiate Athletic Association, met at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Playing before its largest crowd in school history, the Falcons, six-point favorites, were guilty, uncharacteristically, of six turnovers, which was the difference in the game. BG's defense, which was ranked fourth in the nation, yielded 468 yards, 196 more than it had given up to any opponent during the season. Quarterbacks Beau Carter and Jon Anabo were thorns in BG's side all day passing for 368 yards and two touchdowns. Carter ran for two scores, also. BG scored its only points early in the second stanza on the two-yard run by Ray Bell which was set up on a long pass play between Larry Smith and quarterback Jim Potts. BG fumbled on its next two possessions with FSU turning the second miscue into a touchdown on a long pass play. Bowling Green did have a pass dropped in the end zone as the first half ended which would have given them the lead. Fresno State then scored 1:44 apart midway through the third period to put the game away, the second score set up by a fumbled snap on an attempted punt. The contest netted $170,000 for the memorial fund which aided the survivors and the relatives of the victims of the plane crash. Cal Poly SLO had played at Bowling Green the afternoon before the crash.

1982 CALIFORNIA BOWL
Dec. 18, 1982 - Bulldog Stadium - 30,000

Bowling Green - 28
Fresno State -- 29

After a full week of events leading up to the meeting with the Pacific Coast Athletic Association champion Fresno State, the Falcons entered the game against the Bulldogs a two-touchdown underdog. The Falcons also had to contend with a partisan sea of red squeezed into Bulldog Stadium, the home of Fresno State.  But, the Falcons drew first blood converting a Jac Tomasello interception on the final play of the first quarter into the first touchdown of the game, a Chip Otten four-yard run capping a 48-yard drive. The Falcons took a 14-0 lead to the locker room after driving 73 yards on their next possession. Sophomore quarterback Brian McClure connected with John Meek on the scoring play. BG looked to be in the driver's seat after McClure connected with Shawn Potts from five yards out in the third stanza. But, Fresno State answered BG's score with their first of the contest later in the quarter.  Bowling Green came right back as Potts picked up a fumble by receiver Greg Taylor at the five-yard line and ran it in to put the Falcons back up by three touchdowns. With Fresno State pinned back on its own 20-yard line and facing a third-and-ten, a Falcon stop might have put the final nail in the Fresno State coffin. But, FSU gained 15 yards on the third-down play and the comeback was on.  With future NFL receiver Stephone Paige running and catching a pass for a touchdown, FSU closed to within six points with three minutes left. BG used up just 1:05 of the clock on its next possession and FSU moved 45 yards in eight plays with Jeff Tedford finding Vince Wesson over the middle with 11 seconds left. Scott Darrow's PAT was the deciding point.  BG gained just 26 yards on nine plays in the fourth quarter while FSU gained 220 of its 453 yards in the final 15 minutes.

1985 CALIFORNIA BOWL
Dec. 14, 1985 - Bulldog Stadium - 32,554

Bowling Green - 7
Fresno State - 51

The tone for what was expected to be one of the most evenly matched California Bowls, came earlier in the week when BGSU head coach Denny Stolz told the team before their Wednesday practice he would be leaving after the bowl game to accept the head coaching job at San Diego State. An indication of what was ahead for the Falcons in the game came early in the first quarter when, trailing 7-0, they drove to the Bulldog one-yard line where they fumbled the ball away in the end zone, the first of five on the day and the same number they had committed in the first 11 games of the season. Fresno State would score the next 37 points before BG would hit pay-dirt.

1991 CALIFORNIA RAISIN BOWL
Dec. 14, 1991 - Bulldog Stadium - 34,877

Bowling Green - 28
Fresno State - 21

Not even being a double-digit underdog against Fresno State could keep the Falcons from completing its storybook season under first-year head coach Gary Blackney. And the script for this game was all Hollywood. The first quarter would have led the fans to believe it might take 40 or 50 points to win the game as the Falcons scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and the Bulldogs would get one of those back before the quarter was over. The scoring continued early in the second stanza as BG's Erik White and Mark Szlachcic hooked up for a second time. But, FSU came right back on their next possession with Anthony Daigle running 57 yards to cut the deficit in half going to the locker room. The defenses took over in the third quarter, each allowing just 65 yards total offense. Late in the quarter, FSU placekicker Derek Mahoney missed a 26-yard field goal, the most significant scoring opportunity of the quarter. BG scored early in the final stanza moving 80 yards after the missed field goal to build another 14-point lead. FSU came right back to score, driving 71 yards as quarterback Mark Barsotti completed five-of-six passes, connecting with tight end Marty Thompson from five yards out. After three changes of possession, FSU started the final drive of the game from their one-yard line, after an interception, with 2:29 remaining.  FSU used its last time out with 24 seconds left and the Bulldogs just nine yards away from the needed touchdown. After a running play for six yards and two incomplete passes, the final play of the game would determine the outcome with three seconds left. The BG defense rose to the occasion covering all FSU receivers and Barsotti threw incomplete with BG linebacker Kevin O'Brien pressuring. It was BG's first bowl win. BG won its 11th game making Blackney one of only three coaches in NCAA history to win 11 games in their first season as a head coach.

1992 LAS VEGAS BOWL
Dec. 18, 1992 - Sam Boyd Silver Bowl - 15,476

Bowling Green - 35
Nevada - 34

In the inaugural Las Vegas Bowl, which replaced the California Bowl, the Falcons faced the high-powered offense of the University of Nevada. In a game in which the punting game took center stage, the Falcons won the first half and Nevada the second half, but a late BG touchdown proved to be the difference. The Falcons scored on their first four possessions to grab a 28-3 halftime lead. BG had 267 first-half yards to just 116 for the Wolfpack as they had an 18-6 edge in first downs. In the second half, it was Nevada quarterback Chris Vargas' turn. He had engineered six Nevada comeback victories in three years coming off the bench, including an NCAA-record 35-point comeback against Weber State. Nevada scored three touchdowns in the third quarter with punts of five and seven yards by BG setting up the first two scores. The Wolfpack's third score was set up by a high snap from center on a BG punt. Nevada finally took the lead with 12:41 left in the game and looked to possibly put the game away with a field goal with 7:13 left, ending their run of 31 unanswered points. Bowling Green then moved to the Nevada six-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. After holding the Wolfpack to one first down, Nevada punter Steve Lester had the center snap go through

his hands setting up the Falcons at the Wolfpack 15-yard line with 1:45 remaining. A 12-yard Erik White to Mark Szlachcic connection on first down put the Falcons on the three-yard line. After two runs and a pass did not net any yardage, White found Dave Hankins alone in the back of the end zone on fourth down with 22 seconds left. Placekicker Brian Leaver made the PAT for the winning points and BG's second consecutive bowl win.

2003 MOTOR CITY BOWL
Dec. 26, 2003 - Ford Field - 51,286

Bowling Green - 28
Northwestern - 24

Northwestern took away Bowling Green's running game. So Josh Harris beat the Wildcats through the air. Harris passed for 386 yards and three touchdowns to lead Bowling Green to a 28-24 victory over Northwestern in the Motor City Bowl. It was the first postseason meeting ever between schools from the MAC and Big Ten. Bowling Green took the lead for good on Harris' 3-yard touchdown pass to Cole Magner with 4:06 left. Harris, who also ran for a TD, set a Motor City Bowl and BGSU record for completions with 38 in 50 attempts. It also marked the third fourth-quarter rally for BGSU against a Big Ten squad (Northwestern in 2001 and Purdue in 2003). Magner also set a game record for catches, finishing with 12 for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Jason Wright ran for 237 yards on 21 carries and finished with 336 all-purpose yards for Northwestern. He had a 77-yard TD run - the second-longest run in Motor City Bowl history - to give the Wildcats a 17-7 lead early in the third quarter and an 88-yard kickoff return early in the fourth to set up Noah Herron's 2-yard touchdown run that made it 24-21. Bowling Green used two 80-yard scoring drives to take a 21-17 lead early in the fourth. Harris threw a 7-yard TD pass to Magner, and put the Falcons on top with an 11-yarder to Steve Sanders. Northwestern opened the scoring on Herron's 40-yard fourth-down run in the first quarter, and made it 10-0 on Brian Huffman's 31-yard field goal. Bowling Green answered with a 67-yard drive, capped by Harris' 4-yard run.

2004 GMAC BOWL
Dec. 22, 2004 - Ladd Peebles Stadium - 24,000 (Est.)

Bowling Green - 52
Memphis - 35

Omar Jacobs went from Bowling Green's question mark to the Mid-American Conference's latest star quarterback. Jacobs capped a marvelous sophomore season by passing for 365 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Falcons to a 52-35 victory over Memphis in the GMAC Bowl. The Falcons (9-3) turned a shootout into a blowout after leading

35-28 at halftime to win their fourth consecutive bowl game. Jacobs got them started with four first-half touchdown passes - two apiece to Charles Sharon and Steve Sanders helped carry them the rest of the way. Pope ran 28 times for 151 yards and a pair of 1-yard touchdowns. He also caught a 13-yard pass for the only score of the third quarter. The Tigers (8-4), playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time, couldn't keep up with the nation's No. 4 offense, which totaled 558 total yards. Jacobs, whose 41 touchdown passes led the nation and set a Mid-American Conference record, completed 26-of-44 passes with an interception to earn Most Valuable Player honors.

2007 GMAC BOWL
Jan. 6, 2008 - Ladd Peebles Stadium

Bowling Green - 7
Tulsa -  63

Hurricane Paul Smith and the nation's top-rated offense turned a little charity into a lot of history in the GMAC Bowl. Smith had his NCAA-record 14th consecutive 300-yard passing game, and Tulsa converted four fumble recoveries into first-half touchdowns on the way to a 63-7 win over Bowling Green in the 2007 GMAC Bowl. With all that help, the Golden Hurricane (10-4) ran up a 35-0 halftime lead and capped coach Todd Graham's first season by reaching 10 wins for the first time since 1991. Smith passed for 312 yards and five touchdowns. He broke the record of 13 300-yard efforts in a row he shared with BYU's Ty Detmer, whose streak stretched over the 1989 and 1990 seasons. He and Tarrion Adams joined Houston's David Klingler and Chuck Weatherspoon as the NCAA's only 5,000-yard passing and 1,000-yard rushing tandems.

Tulsa outgained Bowling Green (8-5) 562-229 in total yards. Adams scored touchdowns running, passing and receiving before halftime and ran for 112 yards. Trae Johnson caught two scoring passes. Bowling Green, which had won four consecutive bowl games, lost three fumbles in its own territory in the first quarter and never recovered. Quarterback Tyler Sheehan was helped off the field with a left ankle injury with 24 seconds left in the first half and didn't return. Sheehan passed for 141 yards and ran for another 21. Still throwing the ball despite the large lead late in the fourth quarter, the Golden Hurricanes became the first team in NCAA history to have a 5,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and three 1,000-yard receivers.

Smith came in needing 247 yards along with 45 yards receiving from Charles Clay, who reached the milestone with several catches midway through the fourth quarter and finished with 11 for 69 yards. The Mid-American Conference had won five of six GMAC Bowls before the Falcons' fall. Down 42-0, Bowling Green got on the board when Roger Williams scored on a 78-yard kick return early in the third quarter for the Falcons' only points. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown in the history of the GMAC Bowl. Despite the loss the 2007 season was a very impressive one for the Orange and Brown, who finished the year with an 8-5 record, matching Central Michigan for the most overall wins in the conference. The Falcons, who were picked to finish fifth in the East Division, finished MAC play with a 6-2 record, finishing in a three-way tie for tops among the East.

2009 HUMANITARIAN BOWL
Dec. 30, 2009 - Bronco Stadium

Bowling Green - 42
Idaho - 43

The Bowling Green State University football team got a 51-yard touchdown from Freddie Barnes with 32 seconds remaining to take a 42-35 lead but surrendered a late touchdown with four seconds to go, as well as a two-point conversion, to fall 43-42 to the Idaho Vandals in the 2009 Roady's Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho. BGSU rallied back from a 28-14 and 35-28 deficits to lead with 32 seconds to go but the Vandals drove 66 yards on three plays, including a 50-yard strike to open the drive to get within one at 42-41. After a timeout the Vandals elected to go for two, converting in the back of the endzone for the winning score. The Falcons opened the scoring with senior quarterback Tyler Sheehan hooking up with Biletnikoff finalist Freddie Barnes on a 35-yard touchdown. Sheehan would call Barnes' number 16 more times, finishing

with a Humanitarian Bowl record 17 receptions for 219 yards (both Humanitarian Bowl records), while Sheehan completed 33-of-47 passes for 387 yards and four touchdowns. Barnes would finish the season with 155 receptions, smashing the all-time NCAA mark of 142, held by Manny Hazzard (Houston) since 1989. For his efforts he was named BGSU's Roady's Humanitarian Bowl Most Valuable Player. Following a Vandal touchdown junior Willie Geter scampered 59 yards for a score to spot the Orange and Brown a 14-7 lead at the end of one quarter. It was Geter's second longest run of the season. Neither team would get back on the scoreboard until Idaho's Nathan Enderle connected with wide receiver Eric Greenwood on a seven-yard fade route with 19 seconds remaining in the first half to finish the first half at 14 apiece. Idaho started the second half off with a bang, scoring a pair of touchdowns in a four minute span to go up 28-14 with 5:30 minutes to go in the third quarter, a spot Bowling Green has seen before an answered. Much like the contest with Kent State and Buffalo, BGSU would have to find a way

to rally from a double-digit deficit, a deficit they would erase in a hurry. First, Sheehan connected with fellow classmate Jimmy Scheidler on a 15-yard touchdown with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter and then found Barnes on an out-route at 12:15 in the fourth to knot the score at 28 apiece. The Vandals would answer back with a 74-yard drive to once again take the lead, this time, 35-28 with 8:32 to go in the game. A two-yard Geter touchdown, his second of the game, pushed the score to 35-35 and following a stop by the BGSU defense Sheehan and the Falcons marched 80 yards to take a 42-35 lead with

32 seconds remaining before the final winning drive by Idaho.

2012 MILITARY BOWL
Dec. 27, 2012 - RFK Stadium

Bowling Green - 20
San Jose State - 29

San Jose State took advantage of a key turnover late in the fourth quarter to secure a 29-20 win over Bowling Green in the 2012 Military Bowl Thursday. The Falcon defense was stellar again on Thursday afternoon, holding the Spartans to -15 yards rushing on the afternoon. With the loss, the Falcons finish the season at 8-5. San Jose State jumped out to a 7-0 lead with a four play, 79 yard drive, capped off with a 33 yard touchdown pass from David Fales. The Falcon defense made the Spartans one-dimensional all game, as the Spartan rushing attack was ineffective. The Falcons got on the board with a 28 yard field from Tyler Tate with 3:57 left to play in the first quarter. After a Gabe Martin blocked punt, the Falcons would get to within one point with another field goal from Tate, this time from 33 yards out. San Jose State would add a field goal before the half to take a 10-6 lead into the locker room. After the Falcons punted to begin the second half, the defense would come up with a big play to help the struggling offense out. Charlie Walker's rush off the edge produced a huge hit on quarterback David Fales, causing him to fumble. All-American Chris Jones was there to pick it up and return it 21 yards to the San Jose State eight yard line. On the very next play, Anthon Samuel would take a handoff and scamper into the end zone for the touchdown and a 13-10 Falcon lead. After a three-and-out late in the third quarter, Brian Schmiedebusch's punt would be blocked by San Jose State's special teams. The ball would carry through the end zone for a safety. At that time, the Falcons still led 13-12. On the very next drive, San Jose State would take the lead on an 18 yard pass from Fales to Chandler Jones. The Falcons would come right back, as John Pettigrew would find a seam and go 37 yards on a handoff down to the San Jose State one yard line. On

the very next play, Pettigrew would punch it in, giving the Falcons another lead at 20-19. With 4:43 left to play in the game, San Jose State's Austin Lopez would knock home a field goal for a

two point Spartan lead. On the next drive, Matt Schilz was hit from behind and would fumble. San Jose State was there to pounce on it. The Spartans would convert for a touchdown following that turnover, and the Falcons could not crack the scoreboard again.

2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Dec. 26, 2013 - Ford Field

Bowling Green - 27
Pittsburgh - 30

Chris Blewitt's field goal with 1:17 remaining gave the University of Pittsburgh a 30-27 win over the Bowling Green State University football team Thursday night (Dec. 26), in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. The win gives the Panthers a final record of 7-6, while the Falcons end the 2013 season with a record of 10-4. Pitt freshman James Conner ran for 229 yards and a touchdown, while the Panthers' Tyler Boyd had 173 receiving yards and returned a punt 54 yards for a score. The Panthers had 487 yards of total offense to the Falcons' 289. BGSU quarterback Matt Johnson threw for 272 yards and a pair of scores, completing 20 of 32 passes on the night. For Pitt, Tom Savage was 8-of-13 for 124 yards before leaving the game due to injury late in the first half. Chad Voytik was 5-of-9 for 108 yards in relief. Pitt had a total of seven quarterback sacks in the game. The Pitt offense went three and out on each of the first two drives. The BGSU defense forced Pitt into three plays of negative yardage and one incomplete pass in those first two drives. On third down of each drive, Pitt picked up positive yardage, but not enough for the first down in either case. Meanwhile, the Falcons were forced to punt on their opening drive. Matt Johnson's 16-yard pass to Heath Jackson on third down was not enough to overcome a sack earlier in the possession, which ended with a 60-yard punt

by Brian Schmiedebusch. But, on BG's second drive, Johnson found Shaun Joplin for gains of 18 and 17 yards, respectively, on back-to-back plays. Joplin led the BG receivers with six catches and 86 yards vs. the Panthers. The Falcons got into the red zone before the drive stalled, and Tyler Tate kicked a 28-yard field goal fo give the Brown and Orange the early lead.

Trailing by a touchdown at halftime, BGSU drew even at the start of the second half, as BooBoo Gates returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a score. Tate's PAT tied the game with only 11 seconds elapsed. That Gates return tied the school record for longest kickoff return in history,

matching Leon Weathersby's 94-yard return in a 1997 game at Perry Stadium. The next drive, however, saw the Panthers kick what proved to be the winning field goal. On the second play

of that drive, Voytik rolled out and gained 19 yards, giving Pitt a first down at midfield. Conner gained 20 yards on the following play. Voytik handed the ball to Conner on each of the next three plays, gaining a total of nine yards. On that third down play, Conner was stopped for no gain, but on fourth down, Blewitt's 39-yard kick was good.


* Bowl game recaps courtesy of the Bowling Green State University Athletic Department