OPENING THOUGHTS: Before the game the Falcons faced a “must-win” feeling because BG already had one MAC loss, and this game was penciled in as a victory before the season began. So how many doubters were there at halftime? More than a few, and I don’t blame anyone for feeling that way. But at least for now, those doubters have to be quiet because of the impressive performance by the Falcons in the second half. Talk about pressure -- and BG delivered. Confidence, especially in the defensive room, should be high, although that defense faces another stern test with Miami this week. But back to the point: At halftime this team faced a do-or-die moment, and in the second half the Falcons chose to “do.” And they did it.
OFFENSE: The Falcons had 150 yards of offense in the first half but ran only 38 plays, giving them an average of 3.9 yards per play. That isn’t great but it isn’t terrible, either. BG fans may be surprised to know the team ran more “big” plays (10 yards or more) than “negative” plays (two yards or less) in the first half by a 6-5 margin. A lot of the offensive problems had to do with field position, as Bowling Green started drives on their own 6-, 3- and 2-yard lines during the half, and their average starting point was their own 13-yard line. Field position can make a team cautious, because the offense doesn’t want to turn the ball over in the opponent’s red zone. But I will agree that it was a far-from-great first half. In the second half the Falcons used a smash-mouth running game to grind out 322 yards and 24 points. Another believe-it-or-not: the BG offense had more “negative” plays in the second half (six) than in the first (five). The difference was the offense had more “explosive” plays of 10 yards or more in the second half with 13, including a whopping eight in the third quarter. It was extremely impressive that BG had 11 runs of 10 yards or more, with nine of those coming in the second half. John Pettigrew had four of those 10-yard runs, all in the fourth quarter, while Jamel Martin had two, both in the third quarter. Anthon Samuel had five gains of 10 yards or more, one in the first quarter, one in the second and three in the third. By the way, lost in the impressive showing by the ground game was a solid effort by Shaun Joplin, who caught four passes for 56 yards –- all four of his catches were for 11 yards or more, including a 21-yarder. Alex Bayer had three catches for 10 yards or more, including the two TD passes, while Ryan Burbrink had the other catch for more than 10 yards, a 12-yarder in the third quarter. The impressive ground game allowed BG to control the clock for 19:51 of the second half (essentially two-thirds of the half). And one final note on the ground game, which ran the ball 32 times in the second half: On a lot of plays it was extremely effective blocking, and on several plays it was smart, sound reads and runs by the backs. And one final note overall: The passing game is going to have to be better, as 14 completions on 33 attempts (42.4 percent) just isn't going to cut it.
DEFENSE: Bowling Green was OK but not great in the first half. The 280 yards of total offense they allowed in that period wasn’t good, but holding Akron to one touchdown and one long, barely-made-it field goal was solid. Quick quiz: The Falcons D held the Zips to 19 plays that gained two yards or less, but in which half were there more of those plays? Trick question, because there were 11 “negative” plays in the first half and eight in the second. What was the difference in the two halves? Easy: In the first half Akron had a whopping 14 plays that gained at least 10 yards. In the second half? Just two, and both came on the final drive with BG in a “prevent” defense. In short, the difference between the two halves wasn’t the negative plays the Falcons defense produced, it was the “explosive” plays they didn’t allow. The drives for the Zips in the second half were impressive –- from a BG perspective: three plays, minus-four yards; five plays, eight yards (and the first down came on a BG penalty on a third-down pass incompletion); three plays, zero yards; three plays, three yards; three plays, minus-seven yards; and nine plays, 36 yards with time running out. To sum it up, those first five second-half drives netted exactly ZERO yards on 17 plays. Also, Akron’s short-passing game was very much neutralized in the second half after going 19-for-32 for 169 yards in the first half. Second-half numbers were 10-for-18 for 59 yards, which is just 5.9 yards per completion and 3.3 yards per attempt, both of which are terrible (for comparison, BG had 12.9 yards per completion and 5.5 yards per attempt in the game, and obviously didn’t do a great job of throwing the ball). Just a masterful second half for the Falcons defense.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The BG special teams rebounded to a degree on Saturday, faring better on punts and punt coverage and doing decently on kickoff coverage. The kickoff return wasn’t great, but the others were solid. And another field goal off the crossbar … Punter Brian Schmiedebusch averaged 38.7 yards on his six punts, but his net was 34.7 yards per kick and was better than in recent weeks. He landed three punts inside the 20 and had only one touchback, but his long was just 44 yards. This week was a step forward of Schmiedebusch. … Kickoff specialist Anthony Farinella averaged 57.0 yards per kickoff on his five kickoffs but kicked one out of bounds (for a penalty). The good news was that Akron averaged just 17.0 yards per kickoff return, although the Zips did start on the 25 or better on three of their kicks. The result was a net kickoff of 43.4 yards per kick, which isn't bad. … Bowling Green had just one kickoff return and netted just 10 yards. The other Akron kickoff resulted in a touchback. … The punt-return game also was a mixed bag, in part because of good punting by Akron (three of their nine punts were inside the 20, and there were no touchbacks). BG’s Ryan Burbrink had one fair catch and did average 8.8 yards per return with 35 yards on his four returns. … And the extra-point kicking saw Stephen Stein make three extra points and a 26-yard field goal. But Stein also knocked a 24-yard chip-shot field goal off the right post, making the Falcons 2-of-7 on field goals this season.
THE LAST WORD: I understand if doubts remain even after Saturday’s performance. While the second half was impressive, the first half was anything but impressive … and it was easy for doubts to enter the minds of BG supporters at the break. I really liked the words of senior OL Jordon Roussos after the game, where he said the Falcons would have lost if they had played four quarters like they did the first two Saturday. But when asked what would happen if they had played four quarters like that LAST two Saturday? BG will have a successful season. Beating Miami, which already is 2-0 in MAC play, is an imperative if the Falcons want to have a successful season.WANT MORE? Here you go … First, click here to read the Blade game story and click here to read the Blade notebook. Click here to read the in-game chat from the contest, and click here to read some extra notes and quotes from Saturday’s game. Click here to read the BiG Look at the contest.