- Yes, I know the mid-way point was BEFORE the Mississippi State game. Work with me here. Bowling Green hits the break with a 5-2 record, including a 3-0 mark in Mid-American Conference play.
- I think it’s clear the offensive MVP is quarterback Matt Johnson. Since taking over in the Tulsa game, Johnson has improved in nearly every contest. And his passing stats are among the best in the Mid-American Conference as he ranks second in passing yards per game (231.3 ypg) and second in passing efficiency (147.2).
But this is about more than numbers. This is about how much more effective the offense has become this season, and is about how the offense has been able to "create" points despite bad field position. It's also about how the Falcons have been able to control time of possession, allowing the defense to be even more suffocating.
I must admit I wasn't totally a believer until the Mississippi State game. While the offense generated "only" 20 points, it did so against easily the best defense it has faced all season. If the offense performs like that against a MAC defense -- and I mean ANY league defense -- it will score WAY more than 20 points.
- Sophomore running back Travis Greene has been an All-MAC caliber back. In retrospect, it seems funny how much worry was generated by the loss of Anthon Samuel. He has been replaced. What makes it funnier is that some people felt the talent was on board to replace Samuel, but Greene probably would have been the LAST name people would have given as a replacement.
And all Greene has done is rank second in the MAC with 115.7 rushing yards per game, helping the Falcons rank third in the league in rushing offense with 204.1 yards per contest. It has been amazing to watch him make people miss and turn three-yard runs into 10-yard runs, and even runs that should have been stopped behind the line into a positive gain. What's more, his durability has been amazing.
- The offensive line has held together nicely despite having two freshmen tackles. If Dominic Flewellyn isn't on the All-MAC team, let's just do away with the award. And David "Chief" Kekuewa also is worthy of All-MAC praise, although the competition at center will be fierce.
Before the season began, the loss of both tackles had to be a concern. But the play of Logan Dietz and Jacob Bennett has been solid. There have been growing pains, to be sure, but at this point the offensive line hasn't been the concern it could have been.
- While Shaun Joplin has stepped forward in his senior season, he could use some help at wide receiver. Joplin seems to have saved his best for last, leading BG with 29 catches for 453 yards in his senior season. What has been best about Joplin's performance is that most of his receptions seem to be third-down grabs that lead to conversions; his consistency this season has played a role in Johnson's development.
Chris Gallon ranks second on the team with 24 catches for 232 yards, while Ryan Burbrink has 17 receptions for 286 yards. I think there is more "in the tank" for those two, as well as young receivers such as Ronnie Moore, Jared Cohen, Heath Jackson and Herve Coby.
No MAC team has it as good at tight end as do the Falcons as senior Alex Bayer (18 catches, 204 yards) and Tyler Beck (7-131) BOTH have been strong. And Chris Pohlman could be a starter anywhere else in the MAC.
- The statistic that best defines this unit at this point in the season is ... well, there are three. The three are turnovers (five), time of possession (34:37) and third-down conversions (47 percent). They are the "Three T's," if you will, and they work to together to explain why this offense has been successful.
The turnover part of the equation is obvious; BG's five turnovers committed is fewest in the MAC. The team's time of possession is the most in FBS football, and the third-down conversion mark is pretty solid. Combined, those three stats have allowed the Falcons to drive for touchdowns and overcome a perceived lack of "big play" offense to produce points. Big plays would be nice, but slow and steady is a sure way to win races.
- While I think the offensive MVP is clear, I think there is debate on the defensive MVP. I would give the nod to senior safety BooBoo Gates, who ranks second on the team in tackles with 38, also has three tackles for loss and has created many of BG's defensive turnovers (one interception, two fumbles forced, one fumble recovered).
But I'm willing to listen to debate on this.
- Other candidates for defensive MVP include ... Junior linebacker D.J. Lynch leads the Falcons with 41 tackles, including a team-high five tackles for loss. He has been very stout, especially against the run. ... Senior linebacker Paul Swan has 37 tackles and has been very consistent in his play. ... Junior safety Ryland Ward has 37 tackles as well as an interception and has really stepped up his game this season.
- The defensive line, which has dealt with a number of injuries, has been solid. Let's start with the negative, though: I think they have been good, but could be better. Senior All-MAC lineman Ted Ouellet has missed two games (and three, really, since he left after the first play against Akron), and Charlie Walker has been limited by injury (he has played in four games since he was injured in the Tulsa contest, and he has yet to play at 100 percent).
Who has been the MVP of the defensive line? Good question. If I asked you which linemen leads the team in sacks, would you know then answer is Kendall Montgomery and Taylor Royster (with three each)? I think this unit has been solid. I think this unit can be MUCH stronger, and if/when they play better, the turnover numbers will improve because of the added pressure they will produce.
- The most consistently solid position for the Falcons has been linebacker. It helps that this position has been best able to avoid injury as well, although Gabe Martin hasn’t been as disruptive this season as he was a year ago. You saw the tackle numbers for Lynch and Swan, and both have been solid. If/when Martin returns to full health, I think that also will help the turnover numbers.
- With the talent this team has in the defensive backfield, having just two interceptions is a head-scratcher. Last season Jude Adjei-Barimah, playing in a "nickel" role, had four picks and the team finished with 10. Between the talent and the experience, there should be more interceptions (also since teams are averaging a little more than 30 passes a game, collecting at least one pick per contest shouldn't be an outrageous demand.
Having said that, senior cornerback Cameron Truss is having another All-MAC season, and Aaron Foster has been solid as well, although the cornerback position has been thin. Meanwhile, the Mississippi State game showed how deep the Falcons are at safety: Even though Gates was ejected, Brian Sutton got extensive playing time and the defense never skipped a beat. Gates, Ward, Adjei-Barimah and Sutton all have played well, and the return of Josh Pettus would only add to an embarrassment of riches at safety.
- The statistic that best defines this unit at this point in the season is opponents red zone efficiency. Bowling Green has kept the opposition from scoring 10 times in the red zone this season -- out of 20 attempts. How good is that 50 percent efficiency. It is tops in the FBS rankings.
Now, there's a little luck to that number, as opponents have missed all four field-goal tries in the red zone (that's just unsustainable). But forcing the opposition to fumble three times in the red zone? That's impressive. And forcing the other team to cough the ball up on downs three times? That's amazing.
- Special teams MVP is the punt cover unit. It would be difficult to single out one player on that unit, because a number of them have made big plays so far this season. Paul Senn's block at Indiana is a once-in-a-lifetime play, and Ryan Burbrink also has returned a punt for a touchdown. Perhaps the biggest play was the tackle Cam Truss to sniff out and stop a fake punt in the Tulsa victory.
The Falcons average 16.67 yards per punt return, eighth-best in the country and tops in the MAC so far this season.
- The rules on kickoff returns have really limited the Falcons in this area -- and really helped kickoff specialist Anthony Farinella. Farinella already has improved on last year. This season he has 15 touchbacks on 41 kickoffs (36.6 percent), and opponents average starting point in the 23-yard-line. Last year Farinella had just seven touchbacks on 54 kickoffs (13.0 percent), with three kicks going out of bounds and an average starting point of the 26.
The problem is that BG hasn't done much on kickoff returns. Falcons opponents have posted touchbacks on 13 of 23 kicks (56.5 percent), and BG's average return is 18.8 yards, meaning its average starting position is its own 21. With talented return men like BooBoo Gates and Ronnie Moore, this unit should be better than that.
- The play of Tyler Tate has finally wiped out one problem that has plagued BG in recent seasons. Tate has connected on 26-of-27 extra-point attempts and 8-of-11 field-goal attempts. That 8-of-11 (72.7 percent) ranks fourth-best in the MAC this season. Long story short: Tate is making the kicks he should make, and that's a breath of fresh air for the Falcons.
- Brian Schmiedebusch has punted relatively well, but he still has not returned to the form that raised his stock as a top-flight punter his sophomore year. Schmiedebusch is averaging 40.9 yards per punt this season, and BG's net punting average is 36.8 yards per kick. While Schmiedebusch has fewer 50-plus yard kicks this year, by percentage (12 percent) than last year (25 percent), his number of kicks inside the 20-yard line is up (40 percent compared to 33.3 percent last year) and the number of touchbacks is roughly the same.
But Schmiedebusch's numbers pale compared to his sophomore season. His average per kick (45.3 yards) and net punting average (40.6 yards) is superior to the two seasons since (by four or five yards), and his number of 50-plus yard kicks was a whopping 33.3 percent that year. His number of touchbacks was down slighly as a sophomore, although his number of punts inside the 20 was lower that season, too.
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