You can bet when Buffalo visits Doyt Perry Stadium for a noon game Saturday, the Bulls will have their eyes on Bowling Green senior quarterback Matt McDonald.
Last year the Falcons topped Buffalo, 56-44, at UB Stadium in a wild shootout.
For the Falcons, the offensive pursuit was paced by McDonald who had five touchdowns. McDonald tossed four scores, completing 13-of-19 passes for 260 yards, and added another on the ground.
Tyrone Broden and Christian Sims each hauled in a pair of the touchdown passes, and they both return to the Falcons’ receiving corps — so the Bulls’ eyes will be on them, too.
The two teams combined for 49 points in the fourth quarter. This year, the Bulls have not allowed points in the fourth quarter in either of their last two games.
It is going to come down to how well the Falcons’ offensive front can hold off the Bulls’ defense.
“Their D-line is very good, and they have a very good back end at the corners and safeties,” said BGSU sophomore running back Jaison Patterson.
“As long as we can hold up well on the O-line, we’ll be good the entire game.”
This year, the Falcons come into the game at 2-3 overall and 1-0 in the MAC, coming off a 31-28 win at Akron, Buffalo is 2-3 and 2-0 with league wins over Miami, 24-20, and Eastern Michigan, 50-31.
McDonald has connected with 15 different receivers this season. He is No. 1 in the MAC and No. 14 in the nation with 13 passing touchdowns.
Seven different receivers have caught his 13 touchdown passes and for the season he has completed 85 of 148 passes (57%) for 937 yards. McDonald did not play in the loss to Mississippi State.
McDonald’s longest pass is a 59-yard hookup with senior receiver Odeau Hilliare. McDonald has thrown just one interception.
“I think we threw more touchdown passes in three or four games then we have in the last year,” said BGSU coach Scot Loeffler. “Matt’s a good player.”
Loeffler says McDonald’s journey to get to his final year has not been easy.
“Matt went through a really difficult situation in regards to we didn’t have anyone to protect him. We didn’t have anyone for him to throw to,” Loeffler said.
“He went through a learning curve that’s really, really difficult, (he) established some bad habits through trying to make a play, because we lacked some playmaker ability and lacked some protection ability. Now we finally have got the line much better.
“The running backs are running well, and we’ve got receivers that can catch the football. I’ve said it from the beginning, it’s nice when you can throw a slant and the slant goes for 40 yards,” Loeffler said.
“We finally have got some pieces of the puzzle that were missing and we’re going to need every single piece of the puzzle this week to find a way to win this game. Everyone’s got to play their best football, in my opinion.”
Buffalo’s offense is dangerous, too. The Bulls, looking for their third straight win, have scored in 17 straight quarters.
Quarterback Cole Snyder seems to be getting more and more comfortable each week. Against Eastern Michigan, the junior signal-caller finished 20-of-29 for 297 yards and two touchdowns and added two rushing scores.
“Just watching a little bit of film, they like to run the ball, they like to pass a little, so we just going to go into it and just execute whatever the game plan is this week,” BGSU senior safety Chris Bacon said.
“We are just making sure that we start talking about communication. Everybody is honing in on their assignment and just doing their job. Everybody does their individual piece of the puzzle, and that is how we stay on top of things.”
Loeffler said the Falcons’ defense must get off the field as quickly as possible so that McDonald and the BGSU offense can do what they do best. He says opposing offenses have had too much success on third and long.
“They’ve got to get off the field on third down,” Loeffler said. “We’re doing such good things on defense. We’re sacking the quarterback.
“The run yardage isn’t bad right now whatsoever, and it’s those third and 18s that statistically, that’s a 16% chance of occurring,” Loeffler continued.
“We’ve got to get that down to only 16%. The third and long defense, we’re working hard, we’ll get it fixed.”