The Bowling Green Falcons wanted to play fast this year, but they just didn't think it would be on defense. In their opener against Western Kentucky on Friday night, it was the Hilltoppers who pushed the tempo on offense and put the defense on its heels.
Hilltoppers' quarterback Brandon Doughty threw for a school-record 569 yards and six touchdowns to help Western Kentucky to a convincing 59-31 win over the Falcons in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Doughty and the Hilltoppers offense moved the ball at will against the Falcons, who returned six starters from the Mid-American Conference's best defense last year.
Just how bad was the Falcon defense in this game? The Hilltoppers finished with 40 first downs, 702 yards of total offense while converting on 14 of 18 third down situations. The Falcon defense could not get off the field all night. The Western Kentucky offense had eight touchdown drives of 69 yards or more.
The Falcon offense tried its best to play its style of up-tempo offense but experienced some hiccups early on. Bowling Green went three and out on its first two series and found itself down 14-0 as the first quarter ended. On subsequent drives in the second quarter, the Falcons failed to convert on fourth down inside their own 15 yard line and then missed a short field goal. Meanwhile, the Western Kentucky offense kept putting the ball in the end zone and led 31-10 at the half.
The Falcons' coaches tried to make some adjustments at halftime but it was more of the same in the second half. The Hilltoppers took the second half kick-off and promptly marched 69 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown in just three minutes and 36 seconds. The Falcons offense scored with the Hilltoppers in the second half but could not get any closer than three touchdowns the rest of the game.
Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson finished 25 of 36 for 314 yard and a touchdown. Running back Travis Greene had 91 yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries. The Falcons offense finished with a respectable 465 yards of total offense and 27 first downs but it paled in comparison to what the Hilltoppers offense was doing.
Other bright spots on offense for Bowling Green were first year receivers Roger Lewis (8 catches for 78 yards) and Gehrig Dieter (7 catches for 78 yards). Lewis, a true freshman, and Dieter, a SMU transfer, both look like they could be serious weapons for the Falcons this year. Sophomore Ronnie Moore caught a short pass and raced 41 yards for Johnson's only touchdown pass of the game in the third quarter.
So was Western Kentucky's offense that good or was the Falcons defense that bad? Probably a little of both. The Hilltoppers offense never missed a beat as last year's offensive coordinator, Jeff Brohm, took over the head coaching job this year. That continuity on offense showed.
Conversely, the Falcons seemed to struggle under new coach Dino Babers on both sides of the ball, especially on defense. Last year, under former coach Dave Clawson, the Falcons played an attacking style of defense. There was no evidence of that in this game. The Falcons defense was on its heels all night as the Hilltopper receivers seemingly ran free in the secondary. And, there were usually a lot of yards after the catch as the Falcon defenders missed a ton of tackles throughout the game.
So what does this game mean for the preseason favorites to win the MAC? It should serve as a serious wake-up call. The offense should be alright and will still put up a lot of points this year. They have way too much talent not to. The defense however is another story. The remaining opponents on this year's schedule will watch the tape of this game very closely to see how the Hilltoppers exposed the Falcon defense. Babers and his defensive coaches will have to get it figured out quickly or the Falcon offense will be left to try and outscore their opponents each game. That's a lot of pressure to put on your offense no matter how good they may be!