MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Bowling Green State University senior quarterback Matt McDonald completed nearly 86 percent of his passes Saturday, and that’s a recipe for a victory.
The Falcons’ defense also came up big as BGSU picked up a 34-18 win at Central Michigan on Saturday afternoon at Kelly-Shorts Stadium.
BGSU evens its record at 4-4 and is 3-1 in the Mid-American Conference. The Chippewas fall to 2-6 and 1-3.
McDonald was 18-of-21 for 254 yards through the air. He found 6-foot-7 junior wide receiver Tyrone Broden for a pair of touchdown tosses.
McDonald credited his line and receivers for his success throwing the ball.
“I thought it was solid,” McDonald said. “The O-line did a great job of giving me time, the receivers were making plays doing what they do by catching everything.
“We ran the ball well and played complimentary offense. We still have things to clean up, like to many penalties, but we will. I am happy with our performance.”
BGSU sophomore running back Jaison Patterson ran for 101 yards, and senior receiver Odieu Hilaire caught four of McDonald’s passes for 105 yards in the win.
The BGSU defense had four takeaways, on three fumbles and an interception in the game.
Six-foot-4, 300-pound senior defensive end Karl Brooks had a strip sack in the fourth quarter, with 6-4, 235-pound senior linebacker Demetrius Hardamon returning the fumble 45 yards for a score and a 27-10 lead.
Brooks had three sacks during the game and Hardamon has been finding himself in the right place at the right time the past two weeks and is becoming a self-motivated team leader.
“Demetrius is literally a self-made man,” BGSU coach Scot Loeffler said. “He is like a guy that was shining shoes that became a millionaire. He works so hard.”
The Chippewas had cut the lead to within nine points and was looking to further cut into the lead, but BGSU senior defensive tackle Walter Haire had a highlight-reel play with 2:40 left in the game.
Haire batted down a pass, then pinned it against the back of the CMU offensive lineman who was blocking him. Haire grabbed the ball away with one hand and returned it 26 yards into CMU territory.
Several plays later, McDonald found Broden in the end zone for the second time in the game.
BGSU 6-4, 230-pound freshman tight end Harold Fannin Jr. had a rushing TD to open the game’s scoring, while senior kicker Mason Lawler hit a pair of field goals along with four extra points.
The Falcons went 75 yards for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. After a nine-yard rush by sophomore running back Ta’ron Keith, McDonald found Hilaire for a 46-yard gain, putting the Falcons at the CMU 20-yard line.
McDonald hit senior tight end Christian Sims for nine yards, and Keith picked up a first down on the ground. Three more rushing plays put the Falcons at the one, and on fourth and goal, Fannin took the ball the final yard for the game’s opening points.
Each team went three-and-out on their next drive. CMU picked up a first down on the Chippewas’ second drive of the day, but the drive stalled before Marshall Meeder hit a 52-yard field goal to get the hosts on the scoreboard with 4:15 remaining in the opening quarter.
On the first play of the next drive, Patterson broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage and rumbled for 36 yards into CMU territory. A pair of sacks stalled the Falcons’ drive, but freshman Sami Sir’s punt was downed at the Central 7-yard line.
Hardamon sacked CMU QB Daniel Richardson at the 3-yard line on the second play of that drive, and the final play of the opening quarter.
The Chippewas were forced to punt the ball back to the Falcons, and BGSU junior Jake Rogers returned the kick 27 yards to the CMU 40.
McDonald found Hiliare on third and long, picking up 23 yards and getting the Falcons into the red zone. Three plays later, Lawler’s 38-yard field-goal attempt was right down the middle, giving BGSU a 10-3 lead.
After the teams traded punts, the Falcons took over at midfield. McDonald completed three consecutive passes for double-digit gains, with 19-yard plays to Hiliare and senior receiver C.J. Lewis sandwiched around a 13-yard completion to Sims.
The Lewis catch put the Falcons in the redzone, and three plays later, McDonald found Broden for an 11-yard scoring play with just 22 seconds left in the half.
BGSU took a 17-3 lead into the intermission after outgaining the Chippewas, 241-34, in the opening 30 minutes.
CMU, however, came out quickly in the second half, scoring on the opening drive after starting with a short field. Jake Tafelski’s 3-yard run made it a one-score game.
BGSU picked a pair of first downs on the next drive, but the Falcons were forced to punt. On the next drive, a 60-yard run by CMU QB Jase Bauer put the Chippewas at the BG 25-yard line.
Central drove as deep as the Falcons’ 8-yard line, but junior free safety Patrick Day’s strip-sack of Bauer on a fourth-and-7 play ended that drive. Freshman linebacker Cashius Howell recovered the ball for BGSU.
On the next drive, a nifty catch by BGSU senior receiver Cavon Croom on third down moved the chains.
The drive stalled, but on Sir’s punt, a fumble gave the ball back to the Falcons at the CMU 28. That drive culminated with a Lawler field goal, giving BGSU a 20-10 lead with 12:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.
CMU’s next drive ended with a BGSU scoop-and-score with 9:49 to go. Brooks knocked the ball out of Richardson’s hand, and Hardamon picked it up and went 45 yards for a touchdown.
The Chippewas responded with a scoring drive, as Bauer tossed an 8-yard pass to Joel Wilson with 6:13 to go. CMU went for two and converted, making it a nine-point game.
The Falcons recovered an onside kick and picked up a first down on the ensuing drive. When BGSU gave the ball back, the Chippewas had used all of their timeouts, and CMU took over at their own 4-yard line after the Sir punt pinned them deep.
The Chippewas were driving, but Haire batted down a Bauer pass, pinned the ball against a CMU offensive lineman’s back, then came away with the ball and returned it 26 yards to the CMU 36-yard line with 2:40 to go.
Three runs later, the Falcons faced a fourth-and-5 at Central’s 31. BGSU converted in a big way, as McDonald found Broden for a TD toss with 49 seconds to go. Lawler’s PAT gave the Orange and Brown a 34-18 lead and sealed the deal.
Loeffler said it was a strong team performance, but there are still facets of the game that showed vulnerability.
“I am super happy for our team. I thought defensively we played exceptional. I think offensively we did some good things, but we just have to get these penalties cleaned up,’ Loeffler said.
“On special teams, penalties cleaned up, on offensive penalties cleaned up as well as the defense. I thought we threw the ball well, 18-of-21, but I thought we could have done a little bit better job of protecting the passer.
“We did some better things in the red zone, but we need to continue to improve in that area. The reason we are given ourselves a chance is the defense is getting turnovers and we are protecting the ball.
“It was 4-0 [turnover margin] and at the end of the day that was the reason how the outcome was to be.”
The Falcons will next host Western Michigan at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at Doyt L. Perry Stadium.
Loeffler said the Falcons seemed to carry their energy from last week’s win over Miami into Mount Pleasant.
The task, he said, will be to keep the energy at a high level as weekday games move to national television.
“It is only going to get harder in a theatre near you,” Loeffler said. (Mid-week MACtion) Somehow some way you have to generate your own energy and go out and play the best football that you can play. We have to help each other, encourage each other,” Loeffler said.