OPENING THOUGHTS: I’m going to do my usual song-and-dance with numbers, thoughts, etc. But here’s something both sides can admit: THAT WAS A GREAT COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAME. Both teams made mistakes, both teams made great plays that caused mistakes, both teams made great plays that overcame the other team. There are a lot of “what ifs” to look at … but that was a GREAT game. And both teams can be proud of that.
TRICK QUESTIONS: Before I go into my analysis, a pair of trick questions for you. 1. Which team, Kent State or Bowling Green, had more plays that gained two yards or less? 2. Which team had more plays that gained at least 10 years? Answer below.
OFFENSE: That certainly was a head-shaker, wasn’t it? The running game that had gone so well the previous six games was ground to a halt by the Golden Flashes, who limited BG to 83 net yards rushing on 31 attempts. If you don’t include the sack, 14 of Bowling Green’s 30 “run” plays gained two yards or less (46.7 percent), and 11 gained zero or negative yards (36.7 percent). And there were just two rushing plays that gained at least 10 yards. So the passing offense, which has struggled recently, picked up the slack as Matt Schilz completed 22-of-44 throws for a season-high 355 yards and three touchdowns. And consider this: Kent State had to know Schilz was throwing a fair percentage of the time, because that’s what they wanted him to do, and they still didn’t really stop him. Much of the credit also goes to the receivers, especially Chris Gallon, who had a career game with 10 catches for 213 yards (five of those catches gained at least 10 yards, with TD receptions of 72 and 81 yards), and Shaun Joplin, who finished with five catches for 74 yards, with all five receptions gaining double-digit yardage (and all five resulting in first downs). A few problems, though … First, completing just 50 percent of your passes isn’t good enough, because nearly every incompletion knocks an offense off schedule. And that’s especially true when you attempt 45 passes (44 attempts, one sack). Second, BG had a whopping 13 plays gain zero or negative yardage, or 17.3 percent of their plays (more than one in six). Those are drive killers. Third, and most importantly, the Falcons weren’t good enough in the “red zone.” Admittedly two of those attempts were the last two drives, and there was a level of “desperation” attached. But BG attempted 10 plays in the red zone in the contest and gained just three yards. Say what you want, but to me, that’s an opportunity to win the game that was wasted.
DEFENSE: There were some good numbers for the defense, the biggest of which was the three turnovers caused (the second-quarter fumble recovery by Josh Pettus that led to a field goal, the third-quarter fumble recovery by Aaron Foster that resulted in the go-ahead touchdown, and the interception by Jude Adjei-Barimah that halted a KSU drive at the end of the third quarter). The Falcons also did a good job with pass defense, making only one mistake (the Adeyemi TD pass) and limiting the Golden Flashes to just 91 yards passing. … But, the rushing attack of Kent State was the difference in the game. No one had done that to BG this season. And, truth be told, only two guys really did that to the Falcons. One, obviously, was Dri Archer, who was even better than advertised, running for 241 yards and two long touchdowns. Funny, the other was NOT Trayion Durham, who had just 20 yards on 10 carries before leaving with an injury; it was QB Spencer Keith, who finished with 39 yards rushing despite a 16-yard sack. But the truth of the matter was simple: Bowling Green needed to stop Dri Archer, and the Falcons never did. Kent State had 14 first downs in the game, and Archer collected eight of them. In the second half the Flashes had nine first downs, and Archer either ran (six times) or caught a pass (once) for seven of them. Also, KSU had 12 plays cover at least 10 yards, and Archer was responsible for seven of them. It’s not an oversimplification to say the difference in the game was one player, and that one player was Dri Archer.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Let’s start with the good news, which was a strong effort by the kickoff coverage team. Regular kickoff specialist Anthony Farinella was out with an injury, so Stephen Stein did the kicking off and performed reasonably well. Of BG’s five kickoffs, two resulted in Kent State drives that started inside the 25. And when you consider what Archer could have done there, well, keeping him in check at any cost was a good strategy. … Punter Brian Schmiedebusch continued his recent string of strong performances, averaging 39.0 yards on his five punts (despite a shank punt of 23 yards on his last attempt). One of his punts traveled 50 yards, and he landed two inside KSU’s 20. The Falcons averaged 39.8 yards per punt, which is solid. … Stephen Stein made his three PAT attempts, but Tyler Tate split his two field-goal attempts. He missed a 44-yard attempt (it had the distance, but was wide right) in the first quarter and connected from 30 yards in the second period. … The kickoff return unit continued to struggle as John Pettigrew replaced the injured BooBoo Gates. Pettigrew averaged 21.0 yards on six kickoff returns. That’s not a terrible average, but BG’s average starting position on kickoffs was the 24.6 yard line, and on three of six kickoffs the Falcons started inside the 25 (and the fourth drive started ON the 25). Playing for touchbacks would give a team the ball on the 25, so BG has do to better. … And the punt return unit, who were the darlings of the Ohio game, were goats early in this contest as the Golden Flashes rank a fake punt 31 yards (and the guy who ran it is a defensive end who weight 260, so that’s just unacceptable). KSU’s six punts averaged 40.8 yards per kick, and the only help BG got was that two of the six resulted in touchbacks.
ANSWERS TO THE TRICK QUESTIONS: I wouldn’t have asked them if they went against the grain, would I? 1. Kent State had 19 plays gain no more than two yards (including 16 running plays), while BG had only 18 gain two yards or less. 2. While KSU had 12 plays gained 10 yards or more (including nine running plays), Bowling Green had 15 (13 of which were passes). As yourself this: After watching the game, did you feel KSU had more “negative” plays that BG? And that the Falcons had more “explosive” plays than did the Golden Flashes?
THE LAST WORD: There’s no Mid-American Conference championship hanging in the balance against Buffalo, but there still is a LOT on the line. With a victory the Falcons show an improvement of three games for the second straight season, and they can burnish their bowl resume with another win. Further, Buffalo now has won three in a row, winning at UMass even though the Bulls didn’t have top running back Brandon Oliver. “Close The Deal” is the Falcons’ motto this season, and that holds true this week more than ever.
WANT MORE? Here you go … First, click here to read this Blade game story and click here to read the Blade notebook, which took a close look at the Falcons' passing game. 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. Click here to read a column by The Blade's Dave Hackenberg about the game. Finally, click here to view a photo gallery from the contest.