Falcons bowl-eligible with win over Kent State

Bowling Green wide receiver C.J. Lewis (11) runs with the ball after catching a pass while trying to avoid being tripped up by Western Michigan cornerback Kent-H Lovely (18) during a game against Western Michigan on November 2, 2022 at Doyt Perry Stadium.

Scott W. Grau | Sentinel-Tribune

Few saw it coming — that the Bowling Green State University football team would be in a three-way tie for first place in the Mid-American Conference East Division.

The Falcons (5-4 overall, 4-1 MAC), Ohio (6-3, 4-1) and Buffalo (5-4, 4-1) are intertwined in that three-way tie, although Buffalo defeated Bowling Green, 38-7. There are three games remaining for each team.

BGSU started the non-conference season 1-3, including a 59-57 seven-overtime loss to an FCS school, Eastern Kentucky. Their lone non-conference win was a 34-31 victory over a Marshall team that had defeated Notre Dame a week earlier. So, there have been wild ups and downs in terms of performance early in the season.

BGSU coach Scot Loeffler says that even though others were pessimistic, there was a feeling in the BGSU locker room that things would eventually settle in.

“I think everyone outside the building knew that and then we were told that there’s no way in heck that we’re ever going to turn the tables after how things started,” Loeffler said.

“I really honestly believe, our kids believe, and they know where we’re at. “

Wednesday night at 7 p.m., the Falcons host Kent State in a MAC contest at Doyt L. Perry Stadium.

The Golden Flashes are 3-6 and 2-3, but Loeffler says his offense must do better than it did during last week’s 13-9 victory over Western Michigan.

“To the outside world, we’re all upset and up in arms about how the offense played,” Loeffler said. “We’re really not concerned about the wins that occurred in the past.

“We can’t worry about the future, can’t worry about the past. We’ve got to lock into Kent State. If we start talking about the future, talking about the past, I think it’s really dangerous in this league,” Loeffler continued.

“There are too many good teams and too many good coaches to pat yourself on the back or worry about what could happen. It’s chaotic MAC football. We’ll see what happens.”

The good news for BGSU is that the defense has stepped up in the last three wins, which include a 17-13 victory over Miami and 34-18 against Central Michigan.

Last week, Western Michigan failed to find the end zone, scoring all nine points on three field goals.

“They had a young quarterback and we’re really good up front,” Loeffler said. “We were able to disguise multiple coverage’s. We had a couple new pressures in the game plan.

“They mixed it up well and we played well up front and that’s the key for us. We’ve got play great defense.

“Four years ago, we said it, and everyone looked, just because the league is such a scoring league, that you’re really going to build the defense first. Well, yes, we are. That’s our philosophy. We want to play great defense.

“In the month of November, you’ve got to be able to run the ball and we’re going to be fortunate enough here on Wednesday to have good weather again.

“But if you can’t play good defense and run the ball in the end of November whenever it’s sideways rain and 35-45 mile an hour winds here in Bowling Green, it’s hard to win. So, you know, we’re always going to build our defense. That’s why we’re doing some pretty cool things right now.”

Keeping Kent State’s scoring in single digits presents a whole new set of challenges, Loeffler says. The Golden Flashes defeated Long Island University, 63-10, Ohio, 31-24, and Akron, 33-27, and they are averaging 27.4 points and 431 total offensive yards per game.

“We’re playing some really good offenses coming up, especially this week, I think Kent State’s offense is exceptional,” Loeffler said.

“All three units are going to have to be clicking to give us a chance to have success. I think this Kent State team knows how to win. They’ve won in the past.

“They’re explosive, they’re good on defense. They’re good on special teams. They’re creative on special teams, and we need to have our best week of preparation and really get all three units clicking together to have a chance to compete against Kent.”

A win would make the Falcons bowl eligible for the first time since 2015, but Loeffler says that is not on his players’ minds until it has been accomplished.

“We just really haven’t even talked about it, haven’t discussed it, and we’re not,” Loeffler said. “We’re going to take it day-to-day. We can’t control a lot of things.

“What we can control is what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis. The minute that your mind starts wandering about things that you really can’t control, or what the future is going to be, you’ll get your tail kicked in a New York minute in this league.

“All our focus has got to be on us improving. All our focus has got to be on being able to execute and play really, really hard against Kent State, and after that, that’s all you can ask for.

“But get ahead of our skis, in terms of thinking about things in the future, I think it’s as coach (Nick) Saban would say, rat poison. I think that’s rat poison, to be quite honest with you.”