The Bowling Green Falcons found out today just how big of a disparity exist between teams in the Big Ten Conference. One week after defeating the Indiana Hoosiers at home, the Falcons traveled to Madison and were manhandled by the Wisconsin Badgers, 68-17.
The Badgers set school records with 644 yards rushing and 750 yards of total offense against a defenseless Bowling Green defense. Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon rushed for 253 yards and five touchdowns, but he wasn't the only one to find running room for the Badgers. Quarterback Tanner McEvoy ran for 160 yards and a touchdown, and Corey Clement ran for another 111 yards and two more touchdowns. The Badgers ran for eight total touchdowns on the day and averaged nearly 11 yards a carry against a Falcons defense that was missing three starters out with injuries.
The game was actually close throughout the first quarter, as the Badgers got on the board first following a 38-yard punt return by Kenzel Doe. Two plays later, McEvoy ran it in from 24-yards out to make it 7-0. On the Badger's next possession, the Falcons' Kendall Montgomery forced a fumble by Gordon and Nate Locke recovered. On the ensuing play, Fred Coppet cut back right after taking the handoff and sprinted 35 yards untouched for the score to tie the game at 7-7.
The Badgers would then take the kick-off and march 70 yards in 11 plays to take the lead 14-7, with Gordon rushing the last two yards for the touchdown. Later in the quarter, the Falcons would mount their own drive and take the ball all the way down to the Badger five-yard line before settling on a Tyler Tate 28-yard field goal to make the score 14-10.
That's how the first quarter ended, but that's as close as the Falcons would be the rest of the way. The Badgers, despite two more first half turnovers, would score the next 51 points to turn the game into a big time rout. The Badgers led 41-10 at the break and didn't let up in the second half, scoring three more rushing touchdowns in the third quarter. Both teams emptied their benches late in the third quarter and the reserves played the entire fourth quarter in what amounted to a scrimmage.
After running an incredible 113 offensive plays against the Hoosiers last week, the Falcons offense found the going much harder against Wisconsin. They ran just 62 plays and gained only 271 yards of total offense. Falcon quarterback James Knapke, who threw the ball 72 times last week, managed only 136 yards passing with an interception and was sacked three times. The Falcons did manage to rush for 135 yards, but 34 came on Coppet's scamper and another 60 on a touchdown by Andre Givens in the fourth quarter.
The Badgers completed only nine passes in the game but that is a true testament to just how effective they were able to run the ball. The Falcons defense, thought to be one of the best in the Mid-American Conference before the start of the season, has given up some astounding numbers so far this season. Teams are averaging 44 points and 616 yards of total offense against the Falcon defense through their first four games of the season.
With those kinds of numbers, it seems remarkable that Bowling Green is now 2-2 on the season. The Falcons will start MAC play next week with another road game at the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. It seems clear that if the Falcons are to defend their MAC east division title and make it back to the MAC championship they are going to have to outscore most teams left on their schedule.
The Falcons played against Wisconsin without starters on both sides of the ball. On offense, they were missing wide receiver Gehrig Dieter, who suffered a knee injury against Indiana. On defense, they were without starters, lineman Zach Colvin, linebacker D.J. Lynch and defensive back Ryland Ward. Probably the best news to come out of the Wisconsin game for the Falcons is that it did not appear they suffered any more serious injuries.