The Falcons take some momentum into their Mid-American Conference East Division title tilt with Buffalo thanks to a runaway 58-7 win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Nov. 23 at Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti, Mich. Here’s a look back at the victory. ...
OPENING THOUGHTS: This game had pretty much everything you’d like to see from the Falcons, didn’t it? The offense got rolling, thanks to some big plays by Ronnie Moore in the passing game and Travis Greene in the running game. And the defense simply overmatched the Eagles.
TRICK QUESTION: I consider any offensive play that gains less than three yards a “negative” play, because if you run four negative plays you can’t get a first down. In the Falcons game at Eastern Michigan, which team ran a greater number of plays in the first half that gained less than three yards?
OFFENSE: For the third game in a row the Falcons dominated a Mid-American Conference opponent. Bowling Green seemed to rely more on the pass than the run in the first quarter, but that was because of the two long touchdown plays from Matt Johnson to Ronnie Moore. Actually the first-quarter numbers were very even as BG had 92 yards rushing and 121 yards passing. In the second quarter the numbers were more unbalanced (23 yards rushing, 101 yards passing), but by game’s end the rushing attack (296 yards) had more than the passing attack (264 yards). The points and yardage totals were both good, but there were problems. First, the Falcons struggled on third down, converting just 3-of-10. Second, BG gave up five sacks that cost the Falcons 30 yards, continuing a year-long struggle by BG to protect the quarterback. And third, the pick-6 obviously was bad. But clearly there was more good than bad, as Bowling Green gained 7.8 yards per play, and kept scoring touchdowns even when the second team was on the field.
DEFENSE: As you probably noticed, I had some nit-picks for the offensive performance at Eastern Michigan. On defense? None. For the second week in a row, the Falcons dominated the opponent, allowing just 65 yards of total offense, including only 61 yards rushing (on 26 carries, for 2.3 yards per run) and just four (FOUR!) yards passing. Here are a few other notes underscoring how impressive the BG defense was. First, the passing: EMU completed its first pass, meaning the Eagles followed with 17 incompletions. Second, on the passing: EMU quarterbacks completed more passes to BG defenders (two) than Eagles receivers (one). Third, Eastern Michigan had 14 drives in the contest, and only two (TWO!) of those drives lasted more than three plays. Both of those “long” drives lasted four plays (FOUR!). It is interesting to note that both four-play drives were ended by BG interceptions. Fourth, EMU was just 1-of-12 on third downs, and had just four first downs all game (and only one in the first half). Fifth, The Eagles had just one play gain more than 10 yards. And sixth, Eastern Michigan ran exactly one play (ONE!) on BG’s side of the field, when quarterback Tyler Benz ran 15 yards to the Falcons’ 42. On the next play, Benz threw an interception. As I said last week, I’m sure the coaches saw some nit-picky problems, but I sure didn’t.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Let’s start with the fine work by Tyler Tate, who connected on seven PAT kicks and three field goals without incident. When you consider the strong winds during the contest, that was an impressive effort. … The first kickoff by Anthony Farinella went out of bounds for a penalty, but the remaining kicks were solid. Farinella averaged 60.6 yards per kick -- and was facing the same wind problems Tate did. He finished with a net kickoff average of 40 yards per kick. On the seven kickoffs with the wind, Farinella had six touchbacks and the seventh only returned to the EMU 23. On the four against the wind, EMU started on its 35 twice, its 28 once and its 13 after a muff on the kickoff. … Punter Brian Schmiedebusch finished with three punts for 96 yards, an average of 32 yards per punt. But this comes with an asterisk: Remember that EMU’s punter had a 59-yard punt to start the day? His average for the game was just 33.7 yards despite that long punt. With the wind, Schmiedebusch’s punts traveled 41 yards (and landed inside the 20) and 28 yards (not a good punt). His punt against the wind traveled 27 yards (and landed inside the 20). … Ryan Burbrink did not fair-catch the first punt he saw and paid for it, because the wind pushed it down to BG’s 1. He was able to fair-catch five punts (no mean feat with the wind) but did not have any punt return yardage. … Ronnie Moore had a pair of kickoff returns that covered 22 and 21 yards. BG’s drives following kickoffs started on its own 25 and 26 yard line, which is where they would have started on touchbacks. In short, not bad, but not great.
ANSWERS TO THE TRICK QUESTION: Above I asked which team in the EMU-BG game ran a greater number of first-half plays that gained less than three yards? Based on the total offense, you would assume it was the Eagles, right? Well, Eastern Michigan had 14 plays go for three yards or less (not including incompletions), while Bowling Green had 15. Even if you narrow it down to true “negative” plays -- plays that gained nothing or lost yardage -- both teams had seven, which again is counter-intuitive based on the total offense. For better perspective, though, consider this: BG’s 15 negative plays came out of the 72 total plays run, meaning 20.8 percent (or one in five) were negative. For comparison, EMU ran just 44 plays, meaning 14 negative plays constituted 31.8 percent of the plays it ran (or nearly one in three). Throw in EMU’s 17 pass incompletions, that means 31 of 44 plays (70.5 percent) resulted in “negative” yardage.
THE LAST WORD: Are the Falcons ready to take the next step and claim the program’s first division title since winning the West Division in 2003?
WANT MORE? Here you go … First, click here to read this Blade game story and click here to read the Blade notebook from the contest. 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 about Ronnie Moore earning MAC East Division offensive player of the week honors. Finally, click here to view a photo gallery from the contest.