N…OT again: Falcons shut out ‘the noise,’ beat Marshall, 34-31

Bowling Green State University football was in its second straight overtime contest in two weeks — but this time the result went the Falcons’ way.

In front of 21,158 fans at Doyt Perry Stadium, BGSU defeated Marshall, 34-31, in overtime during the university’s 100th Homecoming game.

“It just shows you, don’t listen to the noise,” BGSU coach Scot Loeffler said. “Don’t worry about what emblem you have on your helmet.

“Anyone in college football can win. Every game that we play you are going to have a chance to win or lose, plain or simple. That’s college football.”

Marshall and BGSU combined for 924 total yards, including 547 by the Thundering Herd and 377 by the Falcons, but the BGSU defense made opportunistic stops at key moments of the game to keep the Herd out of the end zone.

The teams finished deadlocked at 28-28 at the end of regulation. In overtime BGSU held Marshall to a 38-yard field goal by Rece Verhoff after an incompletion, holding penalty and two short gains.

On the opening play of Bowling Green’s drive, junior running back PaSean Wimberly took a jet sweep to the right side and escaped down the sideline, appearing to score a walk-off touchdown, setting off BGSU’s first celebration.

After a review, the field was cleared of celebration and Wimberly was ruled down at the 2-yard line. But Wimberly’s 23-yard run set up what would become the game-winner.

“That was typical PaSean Wimberly fashion,” Loeffler said. “We fake the reverse, he gets free, and it couldn’t have happened to a better kid. Somebody had to step up.”

BGSU senior quarterback Matt McDonald added, “I thought he was in. I started crying as soon as he went in, and it was like, ‘All right, we have another play yet.’

“We called a sprint out to the left, but I was too banged up to run that, so I had them change the play, and it obviously worked.”

There was a reason McDonald asked to change the play.

“He had two major hip pointers, and we were going to run a sprint out pass, and he goes, ‘Stop, I can’t move,’” Loeffler said. “He’s a tough son-of-a-gun, and the quarterbacks I’ve been a part of, they are tenacious, and they are tough. He showed that tonight.”

The next snap was a play-action fake, and McDonald found an open Ta’ron Keith in the flats, who dove into the right pylon for the game-winning touchdown.

“We came off of (play) action,” Loeffler said. “Matt got to his second read in the flat and third read was covered.”

McDonald added, “I never threw it to him in practice, but it was just that kind of game. That stuff just happens in football sometimes, and I always trust T.K. He is always going to make the plays. He’s like my safety blanket there. I knew he was going to make it.”

BGSU got its first win of the season in three games after falling 59-57 in seven overtimes to NCAA Division I FCS member Eastern Kentucky at Doyt Perry Stadium one week ago.

Marshall, which had defeated then No. 8-ranked Notre Dame, 26-21, one week earlier, fell to 2-1.

Despite BGSU’s season opening 45-17 loss to UCLA, Loeffler believes that Marshall is the better team.

“We played a better football team here tonight, plain and simple,” Loeffler said. “They are stronger, they were bigger, they are faster, and our kids found a way to execute and hang in there.

McDonald completed 27-of-45 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns and he also ran for 38 yards on eight carries.

McDonald threw two touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Odieu Hilliare from 25 and 27 yards and a 30-yard TD pass to senior receiver Cavon Croom. BGSU freshman tight end Harold Fannin Jr. also scored on a one-yard run.

Marshall scored the game’s first two touchdowns inside of two minutes of 32 seconds of the opening kickoff to take a 14-0 lead.

Marshall senior quarterback Henry Colombi threw a 51-yard TD pass to junior wide receiver Corey Gammage just 61 seconds into the game, and Colombi hit junior receiver Caleb McMillan for a 78-yard score just one minute and 31 seconds later.

“We said the gameplan was we need to bring in our defense, and it didn’t start out that way,” Loeffler said. “It started out ugly.

“We had said offensively we just needed to hang in there. This defense literally beat the living dog out of Notre Dame last week. We’re going to take our shots and we’re going to keep taking our shots.”

Marshall sixth-year senior Khalan Laborn scored on a five-yard run with 9:25 remaining in the first half to put the Thundering Herd up, 21-7, but that’s when BGSU responded with 21 points unanswered.

It was the second straight week the Falcons came back after being 14 points down.

“We knew the defense that they played,” McDonald said. “We were staying the course, staying patient, staying ready, and staying together.”

Laborn scored on an eight-yard run with 5:43 remaining in the game to send it into overtime.

For BGSU, Wimberly had five carries for 35 yards, Hiliare caught four passes for 79 yards, Keith caught eight passes for 62 yards, and Croom had four catches for 50 yards.

C.J. Lewis had four catches for 45 yards, Tyrone Broden caught two passes for 36 yards, and Christian Sims had five receptions for 25 yards.

Defensively senior safety Chris Bacon had seven tackles and sophomore safety Trent Simms had an interception.

The BGSU defense also forced two lost fumbles. Late in the first quarter, a 49-yard rush by Laborn moved Marshall to the BG five-yard line, but a fumble forced by junior linebacker J.B. Brown was recovered by senior defensive end Karl Brooks to move possession to the Falcons.

In the third quarter, Marshall nearly scored but fumbled the ball out the back of their end zone, resulting in a touchback and Bowling Green taking possession. That fumble was also caused by Brown’s hit.

On another drive, Brooks had the tackle on Laborn, holding him to one yard on a fourth down and three at the BGSU 26-yard line after the Thundering Herd drove to the Falcons 26-yard line from their own 28 in 11 plays, forcing Marshall to turn over possession on downs.

For Marshall, Colombi completed 23-of-34 passes for 338 yards, including 11 passes to Gammage for 100 yards. Laborn ran for 157 yards on 24 carries.