After scoring the first two touchdowns, Troy appeared to be in control against Bowling Green Thursday night.
However, the Falcons successfully changed their defensive looks while seeming to confuse the Trojans and the BG offense found its rhythm, especially in the passing game.
Those two factors allowed Bowling Green to rally for a 31-14 victory before 14,514 fans at Doyt L. Perry Stadium.
“It was a huge win for us, new coach, at home, big crowd. I don’t think we could have scripted it any better,” said BG senior quarterback Tyler Sheehan.
Troy got the 14-0 lead on a 2-yard run from DuJuan Harris less than two minutes into the game and a 12-yard TD pass from Levi Brown to Jerrel Jerrigan with 9:29 left in the first half.
The Falcons finally got untracked late in the first half, cutting Troy’s lead to 14-7 on a 31-yard pass from Sheehan to Freddie Barnes. Barnes finished with a school-record 15 receptions for 157 yards.
“I thought it was real key that our offense responded with the touchdown before the half,” BG head coach Dave Clawson said.
After BG pulled to within 14-7, Troy moved the ball to BG’s 17-yard line where Troy head coach Larry Blakeney decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 with less than a minute left in the half.
BG senior linebacker Cody Basler led the charge putting the first hit on Harris and then senior safety P.J. Mahone finished things off, keeping it a one-score game at the half.
“I was talking to some guys going into the locker room (at halftime), that they couldn’t stop us, we could only stop ourselves,” Sheehan said. “We were extremely confident we could move the ball, we just had to finish.”
In the second half, Sheehan benefited from good protection from his offensive line, hitting on 16-of-22 passes for 177 yards. He finished the game going 32-of-44 for 339 yards and two TDs, both to Barnes.
“Tyler did a nice job of seeing the coverage and finding where the matchup was (with Barnes),” Clawson said.
The Falcons tied the game with 3:49 left in the third quarter on a 31-yard pass from Sheehan to Barnes.
Bowling Green added 17 more points in the fourth quarter — a 21-yard field goal from Jerry Phillips, the first of his college career; a 1-yard run by Chris Bullock; and a 64-yard interception return by Adrien Spencer with 2:14 left in the game. The Phillips field goal was set up by an interception from Roger Williams. Both Spencer and Williams were making their first starts at cornerback.
“We moved the ball well all day,” Clawson said. “We just really made too many mistakes. I think the first four drives we crossed midfield and three of those times, whether it was a hold, or an interception, or an early snap.
“I thought if we eliminated some mistakes there were some plays out there to be made.”
Bowling Green went to multiple defensive looks in the second half, resulting in two interceptions, one sack and a lot of pressure on Brown. Brown was 18-of-20 for 176 yards in the first half. In the second half, Brown was limited to 10-of-24 for 87 yards.
“I thought our defensive coaches did a great job in changing up the amount of rushers. We had three different defensive packages we were rolling through there,” Clawson said. “We had a four-down, a three-down and a two-down ... We switched up who the rushers and who the droppers were. A lot of the pressure came off two- and three-man rushes that we were just taking away the initial read and allowing the pressure to develop late.
“We just told our d-linemen to go hard, we are going to roll a bunch of you in there; don’t get frustrated. We’re going to make him hold the football,” Clawson continued. “And then I thought our guys did a nice job of dialing up the blitz game to get even more pressure there. We had a really good mix going.”
While Brown was limited in his passing in the second half, Troy also did not have much of a running game, finishing the game with 41 yards on 21 carries.
“The biggest thing for us tonight was that team across the field from us,” Blakeney said. “They were well-coached, disciplined and very determined to defend their home field. They deserve all of the credit.
“They had the book on us and played hard all night. Sooner or later you are going to have to make a play or make a yard, and we ran out of time to do that.”
Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson celebrates with his team after getting his first win as head coach. (Photo: Andrew Weber/Sentinel-Tribune)