OPENING THOUGHTS: So, are there any more doubters of BG’s defense? I heard from a few people that the D’s recent success came against inferior opponents, and there was some truth to that. In fact, by my count the Falcons came into Wednesday’s game with wins over teams that were a combined 7-48, while the three losses were to teams that were 20-8. But Ohio came into Wednesday’s matchup with an 8-1 record and was ranked second in the MAC in scoring offense and rushing offense, and was held in check by the Falcons –- but more on that later. The story was an impressive effort by the punt return unit, which had the Bobcats’ punters sucking their thumbs while curled in a fetal position by halftime. That unit played a HUGE role in creating 19 points for the Falcons and basically securing the victory. I have followed college football for more than 30 years, and I have NEVER seen that before.
OFFENSE: The Falcons finished with 288 yards of total offense, with 197 of those yards coming on the ground (with an average of 5.5 yards per rushing attempt for the second straight game). We have been quick to hammer on the Bowling Green offense for the lack of production, but here are two things to think about. First, that was more offense than Ohio generated. And for those of you who give the credit for Ohio’s offensive struggles to BG’s defense, here’s the second thing: The Bobcats’ defense came into the game ranked third in the MAC in scoring defense (allowing just 22.4 points per game) and ranked fourth in total defense (giving up 387.4 yards per game). Those numbers aren’t as good as BG’s numbers, but they aren’t bad, either. The passing offense struggled as Matt Schilz completed just 7-of-17 throws (one to himself after a tip) and had just 91 yards passing. It wasn’t great, but a few things to think about there: First, some times Schilz is throwing incompletions to avoid sacks and interceptions. And second, Schilz deserves some, but not all, of the blame. The route-running of BG receivers has been inconsistent, and there have been drops. And the offensive line did allow Schilz to feel pressure at times. What makes the 91 yards more disturbing is that 55 of them came on one play. Take that away, and BG averaged just 6.0 yards per completion and just 2.25 yards per attempt. “We’re not throwing the ball, in our base offense, as well as we need to,” coach Dave Clawson said. “So we need a wrinkle like [the TD pass to Chris Gallon] every week to get us going.” The run game was strong as Anthon Samuel finished with a career-high 181 yards on 29 carries and scored twice. But it’s not perfect: Of the Falcons’ 36 rushing attempts, 14 gained two yards or less and nine were stopped for no gain or negative yardage.
DEFENSE: Again the BG defense was impressive. Let’s put the Ohio numbers in perspective, as the Bobcats scored 14 points –- or 21 points below their season average –- and finished with 244 yards of total offense, almost half of their season average of 462.2 yards per game. OU didn’t have many big plays, collecting at least 10 yards on just 10 of 78 plays (12.8 percent) while gaining two yards or less on 24 plays (30.8 percent). Ohio had given up just 11 sacks in their first nine games (for just 71 yards total) before the Falcons claimed four sacks that netted 40 lost yards. The Bobcats had just three extended drives in the game –- touchdown drives on their first possessions of each half (which netted 72 and 95 yards, respectively) and 63 yards on their final drive (when OU turned the ball over on downs). The other eight drives netted a total of 82 yards, or roughly 10 yards per drive. When you consider those other eight drives had a whopping 40 plays, that’s almost exactly two yards per play. And remember, this is one of the better offenses in the MAC. One thing that skews those numbers is the minus-22 yards on the punt that turned into a safety, but the numbers are impressive nonetheless. And I think the Ohio touchdown to start the second half comes with an asterisk, because BG was called for pass interference on a third-and-seven pass that was incomplete -– and basically uncatchable, which would have negated the interference call. But while all those numbers are great, here’s what I liked most: BooBoo Gates was injured, and Josh Pettus stepped up with 11 tackles. Gabe Martin had another outstanding effort at rover, finishing with 10 tackles, and Dwayne Woods had a fine game to finish with nine stops.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Let’s start with the great news, which was the ridiculously outstanding effort by the Falcons punt coverage team. Ryan Burbrink wasn’t very busy because his teammates were busy blocking punts: Brian Sutton blocked one (if you notice the stats, you see he got eight “return” yards because of his block) and Jude Adjei-Barimah got the other block. There also was the safety, and there was the other “run” followed a dropped snap. Actually, Burbrink never did have a return, although he did have four fair catches. Ohio’s net punting was just 22.8 yards, which is an outstanding effort for BG. “Our schemes have been drawn up well by [special teams] coach [Adam] Scheier –- it’s been up to us to execute them,” Adjei-Barimah said. “We knew we had to make a difference in the game. And we made the plays that were necessary [to win].” … Punter Brian Schmiedebusch seems to be returning to the form that made him the MAC’s best punter last season. He averaged 50.5 yards on his six punts, which is outstanding. Five of his six punts traveled at least 50 yards, and the one that didn’t was a 31-yard punt that was downed on Ohio’s 16. That punt was one of four stopped inside the 20. BG’s net yards per punt was 52 yards per kick (because of negative return yards), and that’s just amazing. “I thought Schmiedebusch punted like the all-conference punter he is,” Clawson said. “I thought he has had an inconsistent year, but I thought he was great today –- not just with his distance, but also with his placement.” … Stephen Stein made his three PAT attempts, and Tyler Tate connected on a 35-yard field goal. Solid effort by the placekickers. … One area were the Falcons struggled was on kickoffs, as kickoff specialist Anthony Farinella had five kickoffs that averaged 58.4 yards per kick but had no touchbacks. The five kickoff returns the Bobcats had measured 127 yards, or 25.4 yards per return, which is not good at all. OU’s average starting position after a kickoff was its 32, and only one of the five kicks started behind the 25. … The other area where BG struggled was on kickoff returns as John Pettigrew replaced the injured BooBoo Gates. Pettigrew averaged 18.5 yards on four kickoff returns, but the Falcons average starting position after kickoffs was its 26. That doesn’t seem bad, but it includes a 29-yard return by Pettigrew to the BG 46 following the free kick, which isn’t a typical kickoff situation. In general, this area wasn’t very good, either.
THE LAST WORD: Any Bowling Green fan that wasn’t buoyed by the Falcons performance at Ohio simply doesn’t have a pulse. The defense was excellent, the special teams were a huge positive factor, and the offense did enough good things -– and didn’t do any bad things, like turn the ball over –- to allow BG to claim the win. Penalties continue to be a problem, as the offense can't overcome its penalties while the defense (and special teams) both had troubling penalties that kept Ohio drive alives. But those weren't enough to trip the Falcons this week. BG football players have been wearing t-shirts that say “Close the deal,” pointing to the team’s trouble in the final quarter of the difficult loss to Ohio last season. Consider the deal closed … although there still are two more deals to be closed, starting with that important game against Kent State on Saturday, Nov. 17.
WANT MORE? Here you go … First, click here to read this Blade game story and click here to read this Blade notebook. Click here to read the in-game chat from the contest, and click here to read the BiG Look at the contest.