ATLANTA — Finn Hogan’s one-handed scoring catch late in the first half gave Bowling Green State University the lead, Deshawn Jones Jr. returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown and the Falcons upset Georgia Tech 38-27 on Saturday.
Georgia Tech, favored by 22½ points, was overwhelmed after taking a 14-0 lead. Bowling Green (2-3) scored the next 38 points to claim its first win over an active member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Falcons held the ball more than 40 minutes, more than doubling the time of possession battle.
BGSU coach Scot Loeffler said he finally got out of his team what he wanted.
“I thought they played finally to their capability and all the things that we’ve been talking about when this teams focused and their minds clear and they’re unselfish and they’re just doing their jobs or good football team,” Loeffler said.
“I think it’s a great win, but I think any win is a great win. It is hard to win these days, it’s tough. It doesn’t matter who you are playing, you’ve always got an opportunity and any win is a good win, it’s a heck of a lot better than losing.”
Georgia Tech (2-3) wore black uniforms as a nod to its “Black Watch” defenses of the 1980s. With former coach Bill Curry attending, the Yellow Jackets’ effort didn’t inspire comparisons to those stingy units.
Bowling Green’s powerful running back Terion Stewart ran for 138 yards and a touchdown while senior quarterback Connor Bazelak passed for 263 yards and a score.
The 5-foot-9, 225-pound Stewart made the Mid-American Conference visitors look like the Power Five team as he consistently broke tackles.
Bowling Green scored 38 unanswered points for a 38-14 lead. Haynes King’s 15-yard scoring pass to Malik Rutherford with 25 seconds remaining in the third quarter produced the Yellow Jackets’ first points since their second possession.
It was a jolting performance for coach Brent Key’s Georgia Tech team, which was coming off last week’s 30-16 ACC win at Wake Forest.
With Georgia Tech leading 14-0, Bowling Green turned the momentum with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Coach Scot Loeffler alternated quarterbacks, opening the drive with Bazelak before turning to Camden Orth, the Falcons’ run-first option at the position, in the red zone.
The strategy was effective. Orth’s 11-yard run set up his 1-yard scoring run as he pushed back the Georgia Tech defensive front with his second effort.
Georgia Tech led 14-10 when Bazelak lofted a pass toward Hogan in the end zone. Georgia Tech safety LaMiles Brooks had his arm around Hogan but still the 6-foot-5 receiver reached with his right hand to pull the ball in and held on for the improbable catch while landing on his back.
The catch gave the Falcons a 17-14 halftime lead. Bowling Green outscored Georgia Tech 21-0 in the third quarter. A long drive for the Yellow Jackets ended with King stopped on a fourth-down run at the Falcons 14.
Hogan added a 50-yard catch to open the second half, helping the Falcons maintain control. Bazelak’s one-yard scoring run pushed the lead to 24-14. Jones’ interception return late in the third increased the lead to 38-14.
Jordan Oladukun added another interception for Bowling Green in the fourth quarter, helping to deflate Georgia Tech’s already sagging comeback hopes. King’s fourth scoring pass was a 16-yarder to Abdul Janneh with 1:35 remaining.
Bowling Green safety Darius Lorfils was ejected after he was called for targeting on a late hit on King in the fourth quarter.
While highlight reel catches may have been a factor, Loeffler said the game was won in the trenches.
“Oh, not even close. Not even in the hemisphere,” Loeffler said. “I thought defensively our defensive line was a bunch of savages, plain and simple. They were awesome from our starters to our backups to guys that just played two or three snaps that they played relentless.
“I thought our defensive line, our defensive line was maybe the best it’s been in a long time. And then offensively, I thought it was one of our best performances at the offensive line position.
“I mean, we’re playing, I mean, we’re still playing ACC dudes here. Yeah, I mean, we’re not playing just guys that are average and yeah without a doubt it’s not even close.
“It’s always fun, just the guys that are where, where in the single digits most of the time they get all the praise, but those guys up front were stallions. I loved it. I mean, I was so happy for it was, uh, there were some.
“There are some clinic tapes on the defensive line that took place, and I thought our offensive line got it together and played well. I really do mean anytime you that you play the way that we played, it’s up front just like I said, those guys in the single digits, they just get all the parades.”
Bowling Green: The Falcons consistently found ways to convert third downs and extend drives. Bowling Green was successful on 7 of 11 third-down plays in the first half and 10 of 16 for the game. The Falcons held the ball for 42-minutes, 25-seconds, more than 25 minutes longer than the home team.
Georgia Tech: Through two possessions, King was 5 for 5 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. King completed a 53-yard scoring pass to Eric Singleton on the Yellow Jackets’ first play. King threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Christian Leary to cap Georgia Tech’s second drive.
Following the dominant start for a 14-0 lead, Georgia Tech couldn’t maintain momentum. King completed 23 of 37 passes for 348 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Falcons will look for their first MAC win of the season when they play at Miami (Ohio) Saturday. Bowling Green lost to Ohio in its MAC opener.
Loeffler says the maturity in his players is finally coming through, both in preparation for the game last week and the game at Georgia Tech.
“I just believe that our players, we’re finally older, more mature. They believe that they’re good and they are good and everything’s just right now about us,” Loeffler said.
“We just got to make sure that we’re right and that’s a challenge in college football right now. It’s the same everywhere.
“That’s why you we’re seeing the ups and downs and arounds in college football, the challenges is to go into games and have your mind right and do all the things that it takes mentally to get ready for a game.
“And I think our guys are, I know our guys excuse me are ready to do that and it will be a big challenge this week as we’re playing a really good team.”
( — by Sentinel-Tribune Sports Editor J. Patrick Eaken with contributions from Associated Press)