OPENING THOUGHTS: I’ve received a number of Tweets and e-mails saying fans felt the Falcons played without passion or emotion against Toledo Saturday. I disagree. When you struggle in the way BG did at the start of the game (and I’ll talk about the early struggles shortly), it can look passionless (especially because the other team is jumping and bouncing around celebrating its good fortune). There certainly was emotion from players and coaches alike after the game. But the performance? Uh, well …
OFFENSE: Let’s talk about the start … Drive 1 went six yards in three plays. Drive 2 went nine yards in three plays (including no gain on third-and-one). Drive 3 went three yards in three plays. Drive 4 included BG’s initial first down of the game but managed just 37 yards on five plays (one of which was the 22-yard run by Anthon Samuel that netted the first down). Drive 5 (which came after a UT field goal gave the Rockets a 10-0 lead) went 12 yards in four plays and included an interception that led to Toledo’s second touchdown. Drive 6 was the first sustained drive of the first half and included the Falcons passing the 50-yard line for the first time, but it ended with Tyler Tate missing a 36-yard field goal. Those first five drives featured 18 plays that netted just 67 total yards. There were some positive things that happened after that –- considering the start, 351 yards of total offense isn’t bad, Samuel had 112 yards rushing, Matt Schilz completed 67 percent of his passes –- but those positives were negated by that poor start. The two most disappointing plays for the offense included one in each half. The first came on its final play of the first half, when Schilz was sacked for a nine-yard loss on a third-and-goal play from the 6; the offense needs to score a touchdown at that point to perk up the entire squad. The other was on the two-point attempt after the fourth-quarter touchdown; ignore the decision, and focus on the fact that BG needed to pound the ball into the end zone. And failed.
DEFENSE: Last week the struggles to stop the passing game could be explained away, at least to a degree. This week? No such luck. The Rockets completed 21-of-29 passes for 322 yards and a number of big plays. The biggest probably was the first, where UT’s Terrance Owens threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Alonzo Russell for the first score of the game. What made that blown coverage especially painful is that BG had the Rockets backed into a third-and 13 hole. That long pass was the first of seven in a row Owens completed; if you thought Owens was sharp passing for the game, consider that he was 18-for-22 (81.8 percent) if you exclude the first drive. The Falcons did limit Toledo to just 130 net yards rushing, in part because of 28 yards lost rushing by the Rockets (Owens was sacked twice to lost 17 yards, and David Fluellen lost 10 yards rushing). However, in the fourth quarter UT was able to hang onto the ball by converting third downs by RUSHING the football (three-of-four on third-down rushes in the final period before failing on a third-down play on the final play of the contest). Three of those third-down plays were third-and-one (and Toledo gained, one, two and minus-one yards), so that still was good rush defense. But stopping the run wasn’t the Falcons problem Saturday. Stopping the pass was.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The BG special teams were generally good against the Rockets, excluding the obvious kicking problems. Freshman Tyler Tate missed a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter that killed the momentum of the Falcons’ first offensive drive of the game, and he also missed an extra point by pounding a ball off the upright. It was the best game of the year for punter Brian Schmiedebusch, who averaged 46.0 yards on four punts, had two go at least 50 yards and put one inside the 20 with one punt into the end zone as the only negative on his ledger. Also a solid effort for kickoff specialist Anthony Farinella, who averaged 63.3 yards per kickoff and had a net yardage of 45.0 yards with one touchback. BG averaged just 21.4 yards on its kickoff returns, and with touchbacks now coming out to the 25 that isn’t good enough. Ryan Burbrink had a chance to return just one punt, and he returned it one yard, so not much to say there.
THE LAST WORD: Here’s the last thing I wrote in this space last Sunday: “And I think BG will give a better performance against their arch-rivals.” Well. Not much I can say there, except I obviously was wrong. … But of course I’m going to say more. Two things more, actually. One, repeating my statement from the top of this post that I thought effort was good, performance was bad. Second, this isn’t the time in a season to make changes in schemes –- you dance with the plays that you brought to the dance. But personnel? At Virginia Tech I’d take a good look at just about anybody who the Falcons aren’t planning to redshirt. Divide the snaps up and see how everyone looks against the Hokies. The players who play are the ones who complete their assignments correctly and the ones who make plays. And since much of the spring and fall was spent having players learn second positions, it’s not out of the blue to have players move to their “second” position to see how they fare.
WANT MORE? Here you go … First, click here to read this Blade game story by Ryan Autullo and click here to read the Blade notebook that focused on the decision to go for two early in the fourth quarter. Click here to read the in-game chat from the contest, and click here to read the BiG Look at the contest. Finally, click here to view a photo gallery from the contest.
BONUS QUOTES: A few worthy quotes from Saturday that never made it into the paper ...
I asked RB Anthon Samuel and DT Chris Jones about how falling behind 17-0 midway through the second quarter affected the Falcons -- because I thought it did affect them.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Samuel said. “They have good players — everyone is on scholarship. We knew they were going to make plays. Our mind-set was to respond, and that’s what we tried to do.”
The Bowling Green offense did respond with a 10-play, 52-yard drive but Tate missed the 36-yard field goal to render the drive moot.
I asked Jones how difficult it was to deal with the emotions of falling behind against your arch-rival.
“Being a leader of the team, I have to keep my composure,” Jones said. “If people see me get down, they’re going to think, ‘Oh man, this game’s over.’ So I try to keep playing just as hard as I can, and I try to pick up the intensity so guys follow along.”