End of the McDonald era

Bowling Green State University 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior Matt McDonald is fortunate that BGSU coach Scot Loeffler is a veteran at mentoring quarterbacks.

Over his career, Loeffler has coached seven quarterbacks who went on to play in the NFL – Tom Brady, Tim Tebow, Brian Griese, Chad Henne, Drew Henson, John Navarre and Logan Thomas.

Those seven quarterbacks have won a combined nine Super Bowl championships — Brady has seven, and Griese and Henne one apiece.

A native of Barberton, Ohio, Loeffler played quarterback at Michigan from 1993-96. McDonald transferred to BGSU from Boston College, where Loeffler directed a potent offense.

Loeffler’s coaching career, which spans back to his time as a student assistant at Michigan during the 1996 season, includes stops at Michigan, Central Michigan, Florida, Temple, Auburn, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. He also spent a year coaching the quarterbacks for the Detroit Lions.

When the 6-6 Falcons take on New Mexico State in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26 (2:30 p.m. kickoff), it will be McDonald’s final game under Loeffler’s tutelage after three years as the Falcons’ starting quarterback.

“It is my last college game and I definitely want to end it with a win,” McDonald said. “Our first time being in a bowl game in seven years at this university, so I want to bring a bowl game victory back to the school.”

During his three-year career at BGSU, including 28 games, McDonald has completed 520-of-891 passes for 5,906 yards with 35 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He has averaged 210.9 passing yards per game.

McDonald, a Newport Beach, California, native, admitted that he and Loeffler, who took the helm at BGSU in 2019, have been through a lot together — some good, some not so good. Their relationship began at Boston College over a half decade ago.

“It’s been a long ride for us — going on six years now,” McDonald said. “We’ve been through a lot together.

“We’ve gone through challenges together, we’ve overcome them, we’ve grown together and become even closer because of it. I’m super thankful for him. He’s allowed me to have my dream playing Division I college football, so I’ll always be grateful for that.”

McDonald has some good football pedigree himself. McDonald’s father, Paul McDonald, was a standout quarterback at USC, finishing his collegiate career 22-1-1 and holding the NCAA mark for the lowest interception percentage in a career at 2.3% (13 interceptions in 561 attempts).

With Paul McDonald calling the signals, the 1980 Trojans won a national championship with a 17-16 victory over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

Two of Matt’s brothers played quarterback in college football, including Mike, who was a third string QB for USC during the 2005 season.

McDonald’s legacy affirmed

After the Quick Lane Bowl, McDonald will leave BGSU with his name firmly engraved into BGSU’s football legacy.

“It’s been a crazy journey, up and down roller coaster ride, but I would not change a thing and I’m super thankful for everyone that has helped me along the way and the person I’ve turned into because of everything I’ve overcome to be at the point I am right now,” McDonald said.

Perhaps this year will be his favorite, because it is the only year with McDonald calling signals that the Falcons have a chance to finish with a winning record, if they can beat New Mexico State.

McDonald started 11 of 12 games, missing only the Mississippi State game with an injury. He has completed 230 of 375 yards for 2,639 yards with 22 touchdowns with eight interceptions, averaging 239.9 yards per game and a QB rating of 135.5.

He has connected with 15 different receivers and at one point threw 241 passes between interceptions.

McDonald was named Mid-American Conference East Offensive Player of the Year twice, once for throwing 283 yards and a career-high five touchdowns and rushed for a game-high 64 yards and another score.

His six total touchdowns tie a BGSU single-game record and he is just the fifth BG quarterback to accomplish the feat

McDonald, a team captain this year, was also named MAC East Offensive Player of the Week for the second week in a row after throwing for 282 yards and four touchdowns in an overtime win over Marshall.

He became the first BGSU quarterback since Matt Johnson in 2015 to throw for four-plus touchdowns in back-to-back games.

Ranking high among his favorite games were this year’s win over Marshall one week after the Thundering Herd defeated Notre Dame, and the Falcons’ win over Big Ten Conference member Minnesota in 2021.

For McDonald, his favorite game was throwing for a career-high 395 yards on 20-of-36 passing in a win at Toledo. He connected on four passing touchdowns against the Rockets, including the game-winning score with nine seconds left when he hit Ta’ron Keith on a 42-yard scoring strike.

He says he “will never forget that last drive” in the win at the Glass Bowl this year, culminating in Keith’s TD run.

However, you can look at the Falcons’ six losses and determine that not everything came up roses this year.

“There are always plays, especially in the quarterback position, you watch the film and there are things you wish you could have back and do differently, but I always give it 110% in everything I did and I won’t regret that. I’ve given it all I have,” McDonald said.

Now, Loeffler said it is important for McDonald and others who will be playing their final game to go out winners at the Quick Lane Bowl.

“This is an important game for two reasons — No. 1, we need to send our seniors out on a victory,” Loeffler said, adding that the second reason was for the program to build momentum heading into 2023.

“There are some guys on this team who have been through absolute hell, and they need to leave on a positive. They need to grab that trophy in Detroit and have some great positive experiences,” Loeffler continued.

“It’s unselfishness, plain and simple. We want to make sure our seniors go out in the right manner. We didn’t play great in the Ohio game, and we want to make sure that the people who helped dig us out of the hole goes out winners.”