The Bowling Green Falcons will travel to Tennessee on Saturday to face the Memphis Tigers in a nationally televised game (ESPN News). The game is the last in a recent home-and-home series between the two schools.
Last year’s match-up featured Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, now of the Denver Broncos, and Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, the eventual offensive player-of-the-year in the Mid-American Conference. The game basically came down to who had the ball last, and the Tigers won the high-flying affair, 44-41.
Both team’s head coaches parlayed their success and moved on to greener pastures after last season. The Falcons’ Dino Babers headed to Syracuse and the Tigers’ Justin Fuente landed at Virginia Tech.
Both teams lost their before-mentioned quarterbacks, as well as plenty of additional experience on both sides of the ball. However, that’s where the similarities end for the two teams.
The Falcons, under new head coach Mike Jinks, have struggled mightily in the early going. After getting embarrassed at Ohio State, the Falcons returned home and struggled to a win over FCS opponent North Dakota, and were beaten soundly, 41-21 last week by Middle Tennessee State of Conference-USA.
Bowling Green stands 1-2 on the season and are searching for an identity on offense. Jinks was hired to provide continuity on offense to the up-tempo style that Babers played the last two seasons. But that hasn’t materialized. Jinks and fifth-year senior quarterback James Knapke have taken most of the heat for the slow start.
Meanwhile, the Tigers under new head coach Mike Norvell have jumped out to a 2-0 start against so-so opponents. They beat Southeast Missouri State 35-17 in their opener, and then beat a team everyone seems to beat in Kansas, 43-7 last week. Both of those game were played in Memphis.
New Tiger quarterback Riley Ferguson has been steady so far and has been bolstered by the running of true freshman Patrick Taylor. But the real story for the Tigers has been their defense so far this season. The Tigers have forced nine turnovers in two games so far and are ranked fifth nationally in turnover margin.
Unless the Falcons see a dramatic turnaround on both sides of the ball on Saturday night, they are probably looking at a 1-3 start heading into MAC play. That was a realistic record looking at this year’s non-conference schedule, but most people didn’t think the Falcons would look this bad getting to that record.
Quick Game Info
Game Time, Date: This game is on Saturday, September 24, 2016; kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 pm (CST).
Location: The two will meet up at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (61,000) in Memphis, Tennessee.
TV: This game will be available on ESPN News/ESPN3. (Dave Lamont, Ray Bentley)
Radio: Available on the Falcon Radio Network. Click HERE to listen online at BGSUFalcons.com.
Online Streaming: Streaming on ESPN3.
Players to Watch
Ronnie Moore (WR, BGSU) – Used mostly as a decoy so far this season, Moore has had few chances to showcase his talents. He seems to be getting frustrated and has let that creep into his game. He made a terrible decision to try and field a punt inside his own 10 yard line last week and his fumble cost the Falcons a touchdown. Moore is the lone experienced holdover among the receiving core and needs to show some leadership if the Falcon offense is to get on track.
Josh Cleveland (RB, BGSU) – The junior-college transfer from Navarro College in Texas had a break-out game last week against Middle Tennessee. He had 153 yard on 18 carries and found the end zone once. His quick cuts and starting-stopping speed reminds you of Travis Greene, the Falcons all-time leading rusher who graduated last year. Let’s hope he has Green’s durability too, for a smaller back.
Trent Greene (LB, BGSU) – With fellow linebacker Austin Valdez banged up, Greene has been the most steady performer on the Falcons defense. He led the team with 11 tackles last week, and had 16 tackles in the opener against Ohio State. He leads the team with 36 tackles so far this season. Greene will be needed again this week if the Falcons are to have any chance against Memphis.
Riley Ferguson (QB, Memphis) – The former Tennessee Volunteer transferred to Coffeeville Junior College before landing at Memphis this season. He enrolled at Memphis in January and has taken the reins of the Tigers’ offense. He threw for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns in the opener versus Southwest Missouri. Standing 6’ 4”, Ferguson continues the tradition of tall quarterbacks at Memphis.
Patrick Taylor (RB, Memphis) – As a true freshman, Taylor has come in and looked good in the backfield for Memphis. He has led the Tigers in rushing (175) the first two games and is averaging an incredible 8.75 per carry. At 6’3” and 213 pounds, he tends to run over people more than he runs around them.
Jonathan Cook (DB, Memphis) – One of the main reasons Memphis is winning the turnover battles, Cook has led the team in tackles both games and had a 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Kansas. He played for Alabama in 2013 as a freshman before transferring to Garden State Community College in Kansas. He join the Tigers this year and has two years of eligibility left.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. The defending MAC champs are a shell of their former self at this point. The MAC portion of their schedule can’t come fast enough for the Falcons and even then it looks like it will be a struggle each week.
The Tigers haven’t really been challenged so far this season and I don’t think the Falcons will be able to do it either.
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