The beleaguered Bowling Green Falcon defense allowed another record setting performance by an opponent but came up with a big play at the end to seal a hard fought victory over the University of Massachusetts Minutemen, 47-42.
The Mid-American Conference opener for both teams went down to the wire in Amherst, Massachusetts. With just two minutes left and clinging to a four point lead, the Falcons defense forced a fumble and returned it to the UMass 22-yard line. The Minutemen did not have any timeouts left so the Falcons were able to run the clock out and preserve the first MAC win for head coach Dino Babers.
Falcon quarterback James Knapke threw for 443 yards, the fourth most for a quarterback in a single game in school history. The Falcons also rushed for 225 yards in the game, lead by Travis Greene's 110 yards on 20 carries. The Falcons offense ran 108 plays in the game and amassed 30 first downs and 668 yards of total offense.
The trouble for Bowling Green was that they needed all that yardage and every point they scored because the Minutemen were hanging right with them offensively. UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel threw for a school record 589 yards as the Minutemen rolled up 638 yards of total offense of their own in the game.
The first half was just what was expected in this game. Both teams moved the ball up and down the field and scored points. Neither defense seemed capable of stopping the other from scoring. Knapke threw for 309 yards in the first half and Frohnapfel threw for 279 yards. Both quarterbacks had a couple of touchdown passes in the opening half.
After a rare three and out one the Falcons' first drive of the game, Frohnapfel would hit Jalen Williams with a 60-yard strike to take the early lead, 7-0. The Minutemen would pick off a Knapke pass on the ensuing drive but turn it back over to the Falcons three plays later with a fumble. Bowling Green would settle for a Tyler Tate 21-yard field goal to make it 7-3. Then Knapke hit Ronnie Moore from 27-yards out on their next possession to take the lead 10-3.
Tate would connect again, this time from 33-yards out to start the second quarter to make it 13-7 Falcons. Both offenses then started to roll in the second quarter as the teams traded touchdowns until half time to make the score 26-21 Bowling Green. The Falcons missed a golden opportunity to add another touchdown in the closing minutes of the half. Ronnie Moore got behind the Minutemen secondary and Knapke hit him in stride but Moore dropped the ball and what would have been a sure touchdown. The Falcons eventually turned the ball over on downs and settled for the six point lead at intermission.
The Falcons scored first in the second half on a Knapke to Roger Lewis touchdown pass that covered 60 yards. However, the Falcons would hold the 33-21 lead only momentarily as Frohnapfel would hit Alex Kenney for an 80-yard score on the very next play from scrimmage. Frohnapfel would also throw for another of his five touchdowns on the day late in the third to give the Minutemen the lead, 35-33 as the quarter ended.
Bowling Green's offense answered with touchdowns on its next two possessions in the fourth quarter on a 25-yard run by Greene and a 22-yard run by Moore. The Falcons had a 12-point lead again, 47-35 and appeared to be close to putting this one away. However, the Minutemen got another Frohnapfel touchdown pass with 3:22 left in the game to pull back within five points, 47-42.
The Falcons recovered the ensuing onside kick and seemed to again be in command of the game. However, the Minutemen defense held and used all their timeouts to force the Falcons to punt with just over two minutes to play. The homecoming crowd at UMass was hoping for one more touchdown drive to steal the victory but the fumble ended any chances of that.
The Bowling Green defense again surrendered some huge numbers to their opponent, but they did force four turnovers in the game and that proved to be the difference. Knapke threw three interceptions and attempted 59 passes in the game. Ryan Burbrink led the Falcon receivers with 132 yards on 11 catches with a touchdown. Roger Lewis also chipped in with another 148 yards on nine catches.
The Falcons are now 3-2 on the year and 1-0 in the MAC. The Minutemen fall to 0-5 and 0-1 in the MAC. The Falcons return home next week to face the Buffalo Bulls, while UMass travels to Oxford, Ohio to take on the Miami Redhawks.