In front of 1,605 fans at Cochrane Soccer Stadium Friday, Bowling Green State University outshot Michigan State, 27-10, including a 13-2 advantage in the opening half, but played to a 1-1 draw.
It is the second time in as many matches that BGSU controlled the match for nearly all 90 minutes against a Big Ten Conference foe. But, for the second time in as many matches, the Falcons came away with a draw.
“More disappointment in the results,” BGSU coach Eric Nichols said. “I have so much pride in how we played. I love this team. I love how they compete, how they move the ball, I love their energy, their competitiveness.
“It’s just disappointing that we had another great crowd, and we were unable to get them a win. I’m not disappointed in the effort or the play or anything. We just have to get those goals.”
The Falcons, 0-2-3, fell behind the Spartans, 1-3-1 when MSU scored against the run of play in the 66th minute of the match.
MSU headed north-to-south on the pitch, and a diagonal ball found Greyson Mercer at the 18-yard line.
Mercer played a pass back across the top of the box to Jack Guggemos, who settled the ball, then fired a low shot into the left corner of the goal.
However, BGSU players never lost their composure, eventually finding a way to even things out.
“It says a ton. (Allowing) goals is always hard, but when you are so on top of the team and they get it, all due respect to Michigan State, but they got that goal out of nothing on a counter,” Nichols said.
“That’s enough to just totally deflate. Our guys have done a good job, but they are totally frustrated because we are not scoring goals.
“We’ve done a good job of sticking to who we are, how we play through the whole game, and they didn’t change at that point.”
Exactly two and a half minutes later, the Falcons equalized. A combination play between BGSU junior midfielder Kyle Cusimano and sophomore midfielder Alberto Anaya resulted in Cusimano being taken down as he looked to cut the ball back to his right inside the 18-yard box.
BGSU junior defender Joey Akpunonu stepped up and blasted the resulting penalty kick past the diving Michigan State goalkeeper Owen Finnerty to knot the score.
“They just stuck to it, and we got a well-deserved ‘pen’ and maybe we could have had another one even later. It was a big moment there, a big show of our character,” Nichols said.
BGSU senior forward Eli Shope added, “Our goal is always to try and play in their box. We know that things can happen when we get into the box, so (Kyle) made something happen when we got in there.
“We have full confidence in Joey. We know when he steps up to the ball it’s going into the back of the net.”
It was BGSU’s first goal of the season, although they have only been outscored 3-1 in five games, three against Big Ten member schools.
“We are a resilient team,” Shope said. “Every game that we’ve been in we’ve kept it close, and we felt like we dominated each game, so it felt good to come out and give it our all.
“It was really nice to see our first goal of the season. Great to see on that one. We play good soccer, and we are going to continue to play good soccer,” Shope continued.
Shope, who had four shots, including one that forced a save by Finnerty, had his share of chances, too.
In the 55th minute, Shope had the ball near the left sideline, but cut to his right before uncorking a shot that curved toward the upper-right-hand corner but was just off the mark.
Just over two minutes later, Shope did nearly the exact same thing, cutting back and firing a shot. This time, the ball was on frame, but Finnerty was able to tip the shot over the bar with a leaping effort.
Then, just past the hour mark, Anaya took a pass from senior midfielder Nathan Masters and hit a shot from the left side.
Just like both of Shope’s shots only minutes earlier, Anaya’s curving shot was headed toward the upper right corner but went just wide.
Only two minutes later, Anaya found Cusimano, who chipped the ball toward the goalmouth from the right edge of the penalty area. Shope hit a header near the far side, but his shot went just wide of the left goalpost.
“The goals are coming. Once we get a couple more it’s just not going to stop,” Shope said.
“Today, it felt like the tide shifted and all our shots were on target and on course, too. Once we start dialing a little bit closer, just a little more hunger in the box, I think we are going to be a force scoring goals.”
Nichols and Shope said one of their biggest treats was getting to play in front of a huge and vocal crowd under the Friday night lights.
“Oh my gosh, it was unbelievable. It was a dream seeing all the kids chanting, getting into it. You can’t really ask for much more. We’re just so thankful for this community,” Shope said.
“We like to put on performances here and hopefully we get some more wins at Cochrane and give the community something to enjoy and go home with.”
Nichols added, “It’s cool. I know there are some places that have better bricks and mortar in terms of their stadium, but when you fill this place up with that kind of crowd, I don’t think there is a better place in the country to play college soccer.”
Plus, it was Alumni Night, and it brought out former BGSU players who had played at Cochrane Stadium over a half century ago.
“It’s awesome. You saw some of those guys who were here scoring goals and winning games on this very field,” Nichols said.
“To see some of the guys from the 60s, to some of the more recent guys that just played come back here.
“We didn’t give them a win, but we gave them a good performance. Basically, our pledge to our alum is, ‘You are going to be proud of how we play. You are going to be proud of the BG soccer brand,’ and they are.”
BGSU is idle until next weekend, when the Falcons travel to Colorado for a Saturday (Sept. 17) match at Air Force. First touch is set for 8 p.m. Eastern.