OPENING THOUGHTS: I’ve heard from friends on both sides of the debate regarding moving the contest to Columbus and Crew Stadium. Personally, my feelings about the venue are similar to BG fans that live close to the Doyt: it’s easier for me to cover a game there, for a variety of reasons. Having said that, going to Crew Stadium –- a very nice facility, by the way –- once every two years to avoid the end-of-season “crowd” of 500 hardy souls at the Doyt wouldn’t bother me. Click here to read more thoughts-comments about playing at Crew Stadium.
TRICK QUESTIONS: Here is a simple one. 1. Which team came into Friday’s game leading the Mid-American Conference in sacks? Answer below.
OFFENSE: First, let’s give at least a nod to the wind and the fierce cold, two conditions that had to hinder both offenses. Having said that, the BG offense was similar to what it was during the six-game winning streak: strong at times, painful at times, and able to score enough points to make an impressive defensive effort stand up for a victory. … The total offense at halftime was good (207 yards), although it was skewed too much towards passing (196 yards) as the running game (11 yards on 18 carries) struggled. In the third quarter BG had 90 yards, mostly on the ground (58 yards), but in the fourth period the offense managed just 13 yards. … Great effort by John Pettigrew to gain 93 yards rushing and 124 yards of total offense on the day. In the third quarter he was the workhorse on the TD drive that gave the Falcons a comfortable lead. In the first half QB Matt Schilz generally threw the ball well, completing 14-of-21 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown, although the second interception was a bit of a hiccup. In the second half he obviously struggled throwing the ball, though. … I really liked the 36:59 time of possession for the offense, which included more than eight minutes of possession in all four quarters. SPOILER ALERT: And I also liked the zero sacks against a team that came into the game leading the MAC in that category. But the struggles in the second half really made the contest closer than it had to be. Further, the offense struggled to “run out the game” as it had in previous victories, going three-and-out on its last six drives and gaining just nine yards on 18 plays. And while the three interceptions obviously was bad, I was more concerned at the huge struggles by the run game, which had EVERY player except Pettigrew finish with negative yardage.
DEFENSE: After struggling to stop Kent State –- or, more specifically, Dri Archer -- the Falcons returned to being the unit we were accustomed to seeing in past weeks. Pick just about any number, and it was a good one for the BG “D” … Buffalo finished with just 197 yards of total offense, including just 29 yards rushing. The Bulls were 2-for-15 on third-down plays and went 0-for-4 on fourth day. Buffalo had the ball for 14 drives on the day, and all but one of them gained 23 yards or less. And UB’s lone touchdown came when an interception/return gave the Bulls the ball on BG’s 19-yard line. In short, it was an impressive effort by the defense. … A few more words about how dominant the Falcons were: Buffalo ran 60 plays in the game, and 34 of them (56.7 percent) resulted in no gain, negative yardage or an incomplete pass. That’s just a staggering number, friends. And yes, Bowling Green did have seven sacks, but the Falcons stuffed nine running plays for no gain or negative yardage, too. So that rushing number was more than just sacks. Further, BG allowed Buffalo very few “explosive” plays, giving them just 10 plays that covered 10 yards or more –- six of those plays were passes that came in the fourth quarter, when the Falcons were playing a “prevent” defense and giving up some passing yardage. Think about that for a moment: Of the 35 plays Buffalo ran in the first three quarters, only four resulted in 10 yards or more (11.4 percent). No wonder the Bulls had just 69 yards of total offense in the first three quarters. … And one negative thought: Yes, Bowling Green returns all but two seniors from its starting unit on defense. But don’t think for a moment the Falcons won’t miss DT Chris Jones and LB Dwayne Woods. Both were high-impact players for BG Friday.
SPECIAL TEAMS: I thought Friday was a surprisingly poor effort by BG’s special teams against the Buffalo, which also had struggled on special teams this season. Kickoff specialist Anthony Farinella returned from injury and averaged 54.5 yards per kick, which wasn’t bad considering the conditions (Buffalo averaged 45.5 yards per kick, for comparison’s sake). But UB averaged 22 yards on its four kickoff returns, so the “net” kicking yards average for the Falcons was 32.3 yards per kick. The Bulls average drive following a kickoff began on their 32, which needs to be better. … Punter Brian Schmiedebusch took a step backwards Friday. He had a punt blocked for the first time in his BG career, although the punt will not show up as a “block” because it still got forward yardage (statistically, it needs to end up with negative yardage to be a block). Even without that kick he averaged just 34.6 yards per kick, although he did land one inside Buffalo’s 20. Bowling Green’s net yardage per punt was 32.3 yards per boot. … Stephen Stein made his three PAT attempts, but Tyler Tate had his lone field-goal attempt blocked. He missed a 28-yard attempt on a “middle” block, which means the kick probably didn’t have enough lift off his foot (or there was too much penetration up the middle). Regardless, both are not good. … The kickoff return unit didn’t have much of an opportunity Friday, as there was one “squib” kick (that the Falcons recovered) and one touchback. … And the punt return unit obviously had a “fair catch” strategy on all of the Bulls’ kicks, and did execute that well. ASIDE: Kudos to Ryan Burbrink for catching six of UB’s nine punts without a drop. In those conditions, that’s hard to do. Buffalo averaged 36.1 yards per punt and landed three inside BG’s 20, so that side of the special teams goes to the Bulls as well.
ANSWER TO THE TRICK QUESTION: Buffalo came into the game leading the MAC with 34 sacks. That number didn’t move, however, which is a tribute to the Falcons’ offensive line as well as QB Matt Schilz. BG collected seven sacks and now leads the MAC with 37, one more than second-place Northern Illinois.
THE LAST WORD: “Close The Deal” is the Falcons’ motto this season, and BG did just that on Friday. The Falcons were able to put aside the frustrations of the loss the previous week and put together a strong effort, especially on defense, to claim their eighth victory. Buffalo is not a bad team … but BG had its way with the Bulls, especially on defense. As a result, Bowling Green improved its regular-season win total by three games for the second year in a row. If they could do that again next season … Ah, but that is NEXT season.
WANT MORE? Here you go … First, click here to read this 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 the BiG Look at the contest. Finally, click here to view a photo gallery from the contest.