For Bowling Green State University’s football homecoming celebration Saturday, 18,248 fans arrived at Doyt Perry Stadium, but by the end of the game only a fraction remained.
There was good reason for that — the Bobcats fell behind 31-0 at halftime and were blown out by Mid-American Conference East Division foe Ohio, 38-7, in both teams’ league opener.
Ohio, coming off a 10-7 win over Iowa State in Athens the previous Saturday, improves to 4-1 while the Falcons fall to 1-3, losing their second straight game.
Everything went wrong that could for the Falcons, including three players ejected, two for multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and one for targeting.
BGSU racked up 123 yards on 12 penalties, and that does not include the violations that were waived by the Bobcats. BGSU coach Scot Loeffler said he went so far to even apologize to Ohio coach Tim Allen after the game for his team’s behavior between plays.
Loeffler said it was his team’s behavior that disappointed him the most, leading to countless unsportsmanlike penalties. That bothered him more than the poor play.
“We can clean up the turnovers, you have seen that,” Loeffler said. “We are feast or famine right now on turnovers. We can do everything right and we can also look like we did in the first half. We will clean that up.
“I’m disappointed. I asked our team to play super hard and to make sure we played super hard between the whistles, and we were poor outside of the whistles. That is not how football should be played.”
BGSU senior quarterback Connor Bazelak was sacked three times for minus 19 yards, he threw two interceptions, and two BGSU fumbles were recovered by Ohio and returned for touchdowns.
“We had some of the most misfortunate things I have seen in college football in 26 years of coaching in the first half,” Loeffler said. “Those things are going to happen, it’s football. The extracurricular activities after the whistle need to be addressed and fixed.
“First half was the ugliest half I’ve ever seen in coaching,” Loeffler continued. “The ball slipped out of Connor’s hands on the third down for a pick.
“There was a strip fumble for 60 yards and we started 21 points behind. That’s really tough to recover from. We talked about all week long playing super hard through the whistles and not beating ourselves.”
Allen said his defense was the difference-maker because it energized the Bobcats.
“When you get that kind of production from the defense, offensively you get a lead, and it snowballs. I think that speaks volumes to the talent on the team,” Allen said.
“Yeah, it’s got to be one of the best ones (games this year). I mean, it was 28-0 before you even got your popcorn out. With the wind, you know, it’s hard for us to practice that. All three phases were good.”
The one bright spot for BG was after being down 38-0, the Falcons put together a seven-play, 69-yard drive early in the fourth quarter that resulted in a four-yard TD run by redshirt-freshman tailback Terion Stewart (Sandusky).
During that drive, Bazelak completed a 13-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Finn Hogan and a five-yard completion to junior tight end Levi Gazarek (North Baltimore). But the biggest play was a 46-yard scamper by Stewart, breaking multiple tackles, to set up his TD run.
Stewart had a game-high 107 yards on the ground on 12 carries, averaging 8.9 yards per carry. None of the other five BGSU backs who toted the football even reached double figures in yardage gained.
Bazelak completed 17-of-32 passes for 104 yards, but he was constantly hitting his check-downs, and sometimes the Falcons did not even convert on those.
BGSU senior wide receiver Odieu “O.J.” Hiliare kept his streak alive, catching all five passes thrown to him for 45 yards.
Senior received Austin Osborne had two catches for 24 yards, senior receiver Abdul-Fatal Ibrahim caught three passes for 12 yards, junior tailback Ta’ron Keith had four catches for 10 yards and senior tight end Andrew Bench (Genoa) had a 10-yard reception.
Ohio had 19 first downs to BGSU’s 10, and the Bobcats accumulated 328 total offensive yards to the Falcons’ 206.
However, Ohio 6-foot-6, 231-pound quarterback Kurtis Rourke, a graduate student, had a field day with receivers who were wide open, and he rarely missed, completing 14-of-16 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked just once.
“I thought Kurtis played very well, you know, I mean it’s a tough environment,” Allen said. “Some of those throws he threw, like the one they reviewed on the sideline, I couldn’t even see Jacoby (Jones on 23-yard catch caught near out of bounds that was reversed after review).
“It was great coverage,” Allen continued. “He dropped a dime and that was a great catch. Kurtis got hit and made throws, so I’m excited about it.
“I think we must continue to find ways to be more efficient in the running game. If you told me, it’d be 38-7 on the road against Bowling Green, I’d take that every time.”
In the first quarter, Rourke therw a 29-yard TD pass to sophomore running back Sieh Bangura and a 10-yard TD pass to sophomore tight end Will Kacmarek.
Plus Ohio linebacker Keye Thompson, another grad student, picked up a BGSU fumble and returned it 71 yards for paydirt to put the Bobcats up 21-0 with 5:09 still remaining in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Ohio freshman Gianni Spetic booted a 27-yard field goal and junior defensive back Roman Parodie returned another Falcon fumble for six points, this time from 28 yards out.
In the third, Rourke threw a 19-yard TD pass to junior wide receiver Miles Cross.
Next Saturday, the Falcons travel to face Georgia Tech for a 3:30 p.m. game. Loeffler promises amends will be made before kickoff.
“We are going to watch this tape and throw up. First drive there were three wide open huge plays. We beat ourselves plain and simple. That’s where we need to take the next step in this program,” Loeffler said.
“I was hoping that it would be today. We have not taken that next step. We could come out and play lights out against Georgia Tech next weekend. It’s all between our ears right now and we are going to fix it