OPENING THOUGHTS: What more can you say about the play of the BG defense? The Falcons came within a facemask penalty of posting a second straight shutout, which hasn’t happened since … wait for it … 1994, when Bowling Green shut out Cincinnati and Ohio in back-to-back weeks as part of a nine-game winning streak (I’m guessing you remember how that horror story turned out, though). More on the defense in a little bit, but first this: BG is using a style of play that focuses on great defense, with the roles of the offense and special teams simply to not put the defense in harm’s way. The result is a low-scoring game that, in this day and age, seems scary. Put it this way: Does a two-touchdown lead in modern football seem safe? Of course not. With the way the BG defense is playing (and, let’s face it, with the competition the Falcons have faced in recent weeks), a two-touchdown lead has been the equivalent of Mount Everest.
OFFENSE: The Falcons finished with 356 yards of total offense, including 225 yards rushing (and an average of 5.5 yards per rushing attempt). Bowling Green scored twice in the first quarter and piled up 170 yards of total offense in the period. The rushing yardage and the first-quarter production aren’t good things: they are GREAT things. However … even coach Dave Clawson expressed concern with the second-quarter work of his offense, which managed just 17 plays and 37 yards on five possessions (the fifth of which came at the end of the half). There were three three-and-outs and a pair of four-and-outs in the quarter for BG. “I was disappointed that we didn’t score points in the second quarter,” Clawson said. “We got the wind, and I thought it would play a bigger factor in this game than it did. To me, to escape the first quarter up 14-3 [playing] against the wind [was good, but] it was a bad second quarter.” The first drive of the third quarter was killed by a pass interference call, and after that the TD by the defense caused the Falcons to go ultra-conservative the rest of the game. But there’s one other positive for the offense: Its ability to run out the clock in the fourth quarter. BG ran 16 plays in that quarter, 14 on the ground, and managed six first downs to possess the ball for 12:17 of the 15-minute period. That allowed EMU to run just six offensive plays –- and have no chance to get a score that would get them back into the game.
DEFENSE: For the fourth week in a row the Falcons were impressive on defense, allowing just 178 yards of total offense, including just 64 yards rushing to a team that had been having success running the ball. If the Falcons had not been whistled for a face-mask on a sack –- which would have set up a third-and-29 play –- BG probably would have posted a shutout. The EMU folks felt they had success running the ball when you take away the sacks, but I disagree in every quarter but the second. There were no sacks in the first quarter, and the Eagles had five yards rushing; in the third quarter EMU had 17 yards rushing (although there were two sacks for minus-20 yards), and two fourth-quarter rushes netted four and two yards, respectively. If you look at “running” plays, EMU had six that gained two yards or less and three for no gain or negative yardage (not including sacks). Eastern Michigan had just eight plays gain 10 yards or more while 14 garnered two yards or less. Those eight plays are a bit of a concern, but the fact that only two of them came in the second half shows that BG is making good adjustments –- and taking advantage of the opportunity to “pin its ears back” and rush the passer to create sacks and turnovers when it has the lead.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Let’s start with the bad news, which was the kickoff coverage unit. Kickoff specialist Anthony Farinella had five kickoffs that averaged 59.6 yards per kick but had no touchbacks. The five kickoff returns the Eagles had measured 122 yards, or nearly 25 yards per return, which is not good at all. EMU’s average starting position after a kickoff was its 28, and that includes a muffed return that began on the 20 and another returned pushed back to the 18 because of a penalty. … BG had just two kickoff returns and didn’t do well with either, starting on its 23 and its 16 (remember, a downed kickoff would begin on the 25). Both returns by BooBoo Gates covered just 16 yards. In short, the kickoff returns also were not good. … On punt returns, Ryan Burbrink had 16 yards on two returns, including a 12-yard long. I thought Eastern Michigan’s punter was very strong, so this wasn’t a bad day. There was one punt I though Burbrink should catch that he allowed to roll, and Burbrink’s reaction after the ball rolled 51 yards showed he thought so, too. But hindsight is 20/20, and Burbrink did a solid job Saturday. … Punter Brian Schmiedebusch averaged 40.0 yards on his six punts, which is acceptable, especially when four of those punts landed inside Eastern Michigan’s 20. He had one punts go more than 50 yards, didn’t have any touchbacks, and the Eagles’ two returns netted minus-1 yards. BG’s net yards per punt was 40.2 yards for the second week in a row, and that’s not a bad day. … Bowling Green made its three extra-point attempts but split two field-goal attempts. Stephen Stein missed a 38-yard attempt with the wind (the ball certainly was high and long enough, but it went wide right) while Tyler Tate connected on a 28-yard field goal against the wind.
THE LAST WORD: Another great performance by the defense, and another inconsistent performance by the offense and special teams. How good is the defense? Currently it is nationally (among 120 BCS schools) ranked eighth in total defense (290.0 yards per game), 11th in scoring defense (15.22 points per game), 15th in rush defense (104.22 yards per game) and, in terms of pass defense, ranked 18th in yards (185.78 yards per game) and 16th in efficiency (a rating of 107.49). The question is simple, though: is this defense, combined with the mediocre performance of the offense and special teams, enough to beat good teams such as Ohio and Kent State? We’ll find out soon enough.
WANT MORE? Here you go … First, click here to read The Blade game story and click here to read the Blade notebook, which features running back John Pettigrew. 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, courtesy of The Blade's Andy Morrison.