Calling it "Wednesday" morning QB just doesn't seem right, does it? Well, whatever the title, this review of the Falcons' 45-14 loss to Northern Illinois isn't going to look much better than last week's review of the Kent State loss. In some ways, it was worse -- although the Huskies are probably the MAC's best team this season, which explains to a degree why things were worse. The BG offense was decent in the first half but struggled mightily in the second. The defense never did figure out how to stop Chandler Harnish, the MAC's best player. And special teams were effective, but certainly not good enough to overcome the struggles on offense or defense. Here is a day-after look at the loss ...
First, click here to read The Blade game story, and click here to read The Blade notebook. Click here to read the in-game blog from the contest, and click here to read the BiG Look at the contest. And click here to look at a photo gallery from the game, with credit to The Blade's Lori King.
OFFENSE –- The biggest problem for the offense was its second-half struggles against the Huskies. BG had just 90 yards of total offense (on just 21 plays) in the second half, split between 57 yards rushing and a mere 33 yards passing (on 7-for-12 throwing, meaning the seven catches averaged less than five yards gained). Making matters worse, the offense had four plays gain at least 11 yards in the second half (65 yards total), meaning the other 17 plays garnered just 25 yards. Five of those plays went for no gain or negative yardage. The offense was better in the first half, with seven plays for double-digit yardage and just two negative plays. But there was poor balance between the pass (222 yards) and the run (22 yards). In short, there was just too much dysfunction on offense to overlook. Many want to lay the blame at the feet of QB Matt Schilz, who did struggle with some throws and seems unwilling to run when the opportunity presents itself. But there also were dropped passes that spoiled drives, and Schilz seems to be under constant pressure in the pocket (NIU was credited with one sack and a whopping SEVEN "hurries," or near-sacks). To me, there is blame to be spread around.
DEFENSE –- The Huskies finished with 623 yards of total offense, which speaks for itself. As for last night, I'm willing to dismiss it as the MAC's best offense doing what it has done to everyone this season. But there's one play from yesterday's game that sticks in my mind, and I'm sure you remember it, too: it came late in the second quarter, which NIU in possession of the ball on BG's 45, facing a third-and-seven and leading just 17-7. If the Falcons get the stop ... who knows? And the Falcons seemed poised to get the stop as Chandler Harnish dropped back to pass and the BG pass rush closed in around him. Harnish tucked the ball under his arm, and Dwayne Woods had Harnish in his sights to stop the play -- as Woods has done often the past two seasons. Suddenly ... whoosh. Harnish was racing upfield for a 37-yard gain and a first down. Two plays later NIU scored, and the BG touchdown in the final seconds of the first half made it a 10-point deficit instead of a three-point margin. I'm sure faithful readers are familiar with my phrase "big players make big plays," and that was an example of exactly that. I'm not calling out Woods -- he has made more big plays, in my estimation, than anyone else on the squad, and I'm a huge fan. What I'm saying is that the defense, as a whole, needs to make more "big plays," whether it's big tackles for loss, sacks, turnovers, or just three-and-out drives. The players on defense need to develop a shut-down mentality. Since nearly the entire unit comes back next season, I don't think that's unrealistic.
SPECIAL TEAMS –- Statistically, Bowling Green was good but not great against Northern Illinois. On kickoffs the Falcons didn't kick the ball out of bounds, and the Huskies' returns were just OK, not great. BooBoo Gates had a 58-yard return that hides a sub-par performance; if you subtract that kick from his totals, his other SEVEN returns averaged just a shade over 18 yards per return, which isn't good. Gates also handled punt returns, and he fumbled a punt late. Brian Schmiedebusch had a strong day, pounding a 73-yard punt and landing one on NIU's 10. He also had a 55-yard punt, but that was blunted somewhat by a 12-yard return, and his last two kicks went just 36 and 38 yards (and neither one landed inside the Huskies' 20). Considering Northern Illinois has been proficient in blocking punts, Schmiedebusch had a good day. Stephen Stein made both of his PAT's but didn't attempt any field goals. Both he and Schmiedebusch benefited from coach Dave Clawson twice going for fourth downs in the first half, once on NIU's 37 and once on the NIU 28. Both plays could have been field goals outside of Stein's range (54 and 45 yards) and both could have been pooch punts that would have killed Schmiedebusch's punting average, which remains among the best in the country.
THE LAST WORD –- Things like a MAC East Division title and berth in the MAC Championship Game officially fell off the table last night, which a pessimist might dismiss as pre-game dreaming. Perhaps, but the Falcons' struggles against a MAC title team bring into focus the difference between where Bowling Green football IS and where it wants to BE. For those of you hoping for young players to get more playing time in the final games this season, I've got one word for you ... sorry. Most of the best young players already are on the field, and many of the rest are either injured or redshirting. The final two games on the schedule are two interesting tests for this program: can the Falcons put together one more high-level effort to beat another MAC heavyweight when they host Ohio? And can BG beat a team they should have a chance to beat when the Falcons finish the season at Buffalo?