OPENING THOUGHTS: A few questions to ponder … First, did the Falcons deserve to beat Toledo? Clearly not, because BG just didn’t make plays at critical times, and UT did. Second, could the Falcons have beaten Toledo? Absolutely. In fact, you could make the case that BG almost was good enough to overcome all of those mistakes to beat a good UT team. Third, where does the season go from here? I heard a lot of “our goals are still in front of us,” but that’s not true; one of this program’s yearly goals wasn’t achieved because of the loss to the Falcons’ arch-rivals. This team is going to need laser-sharp focus to achieve the goal of winning the MAC East Division, because playing like that against Buffalo and Ohio will result in losses. But here’s the fourth, and most important, question: What will it take to reproduce the Mississippi State performance? Because if BG had played Saturday against Toledo as it had against the Bulldogs, the result would have been a comfortable win.
TRICK QUESTION: In the Falcons game against Toledo, which team was penalized more?
OFFENSE: In retrospect, perhaps it was a tad harsh to say the offense got off to a slow start, because BG’s first drive did cover 52 yards and normally would have provided an opportunity for points (a roughly 40-yard field goal that was eschewed for a fourth-and-10 attempt). The Falcons averaged 5.5 yards per play, and had seven rushing plays gain at least 10 yards as Travis Greene ran for 96 yards on 19 carries. In fact, Bowling Green had 17 plays that gained at least 10 yards and four plays that gained at least 20 yards. But there were offensive problem as well, most notably the number of “negative” plays. The Falcons had 12 rushing plays gain two yards or less (and I’m not including the six sacks in this measure); in fact, six rushing plays gained negative yardage (again, not including the sacks). Those negative plays made the offense work too hard to sustain drives and score points, especially in the first quarter. I thought BG’s passing offense was relatively productive, gaining an average of 12.2 yards per completion (and 8.0 yards per attempt, which isn’t bad). Another “bad” associated with the passing game was six sacks, although several of those “sacks” weren’t really sacks, just pass plays where Johnson fell down behind the line (if that makes sense). BG did a nice job of converting third downs (9-of-15, or 60 percent), including 3-of-6 on third-down plays where the Falcons needed at least eight yards (that’s exceptional). There were mistakes that left points on the field, though, and that probably is the lasting image from this contest.
DEFENSE: The Falcons weren’t very good defensively in the first quarter: BG gave up 124 yards of total offense in the period, including 106 rushing yards (on 10 carries). There were three “explosive” plays that covered at least 10 yards, and only one play of two yards or less (and that was the first touchdown, which came on a one-yard run). The good news is that things got better the rest of the way … Toledo ended up with 14 “negative” plays that gained two yards or less, including five plays that gained nothing or negative yardage. What’s more, BG allowed just 10 “explosive” plays of 10 yards or more after the first period -- although five of those 10 came on the final, game-deciding drive. The Falcons seemed focused on stopping UT’s passing game and forcing the Rockets to win on the ground, and that’s what Toledo did: It had 242 net yards rushing and averaged 5.9 yards per carry. The passing game finished with just 130 yards, but 52 of those yards came on the game-winning drive. The Falcons allowed four touchdown in UT’s four Red Zone appearances, and the Rockets were 5-for-11 on third down. And do I have to say that Toledo converted its only fourth-down attempt? There was only one sack by the Falcons, and the Rockets converted 5-of-11 third-down attempts. But here’s the story of the day, in a nutshell: In UT’s first and third touchdown drives, the Rockets never faced a third-down play. On the second drive BG twice forced stops, but penalties allowed UT to continue. And on the game-winning drive, the Rockets faced third down just twice, and the one they FAILED to convert resulted in a gain of 17 yards and set up the game-winning score. In short: Not bad, but not good enough.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kickoff specialist Anthony Farinella was OK but not great. He averaged 56.0 yards per kick with one touchback in five attempts. Three of his kickoffs were solid (with UT starting on its own 25, 21 and 26) and the other two were OK as the Rockets started on the 35 and 30. … Punter Brian Schmiedebusch also had a mixed day. His first punt traveled 38 yards and pinned Toledo on its 11 in the first quarter. The second was a 20-yard shank that gave UT the ball on its 33. … There were no blocks or big plays by BG’s punt-return unit, and the Rockets averaged 38.5 yards per kick with one downed inside the Falcons’ 20. … Tyler Tate connected on both PAT kicks without incident. He also connected on a 23-yard field goal. … The kickoff return team was on the field five times, and Toledo got three touchbacks. Ronnie Moore did have an impressive 43-yard return, but his other return gained just 14 yards and forced the Falcons to begin a drive on their 19.
ANSWER TO THE TRICK QUESTION: Above I asked which team in the Toledo-BG game was penalized more. Without looking at the statistics, it sure felt as if the answer was the Falcons, didn’t it? So of course the answer was the Rockets, who suffered seven penalties for 69 yards. BG was flagged for five penalties for just 34 yards (several were “half-the-distance” penalties that affected the yardage total). Still, the point is clear: Sometimes it’s more about WHEN the penalties occur than it is about how many penalties there are.
THE LAST WORD: If you’re an optimist, you say that this loss doesn’t have to keep Bowling Green from any of its goals. If the Falcons win out, BG will win the MAC East and play in the league title game. If you’re a pessimist, you decry the effort in a rivalry game and note that the Falcons can’t afford another slip-up if they want to win the East. And you are quick to add that playing another game at this level will keep BG from winning against Ohio and Buffalo. So are you an optimist or a pessimist?
WANT MORE? Click here to read The Blade game story from Saturday’s game. Click here to read a story about BG's penchant for slow starts coming back to haunt them. Click here to read the notebook from contest, which talks about the mistakes made by seniors in the loss. Click here to view a photo gallery from Saturday’s contest, featuring work by The Blade's Andy Morrison and Jeremy Wadsworth. Finally, click here to take a BiG Look at the Falcons loss to the Rockets.