Bowling Green Minnesota Football

Minnesota linebacker Braelen Oliver (14) tackles Bowling Green wide receiver Tyrone Broden (86) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Minneapolis. Bowling Green won 14-10.

Bowling Green State University football is winning the turnover battle.

Last year in five games, the Falcons were a minus-10. In five games so far this year, they are plus one.

On Saturday at noon, the Falcons (2-3 overall, 0-1 MAC) will look for their first Mid-American Conference win, taking on Akron (1-4, 0-1) at noon at Doyt Perry Stadium. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN Plus.

BGSU is 18-9 all time against Akron, but since 2000, they are 7-1 when winning the turnover battle. Akron coach Tom Arth has noticed how well the Falcons defense has performed.

“It’s fantastic and it’s going to be an outstanding challenge for our team, especially defensively with how they are playing,” Arth said.

“They are flying around the field really fast playing physical, aggressive football. They are creating takeaways and getting to the quarterback. Those are areas we have to prepare for and have to be able to hold up against.”

Three BGSU defenders play a major role in the defense’s performance — 6-foot, 230-pound junior linebacker Darren Anders, 5-10, 190-pound senior safety Davon Ferguson and 6-1, 235-pound sophomore middle linebacker Brock Horne.

Anders is one of two players in the nation this season with 40-plus tackles (44), four tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and an interception. Anders currently ranks No. 32 in the nation and No. 3 in the MAC with 8.8 tackles per game.

Ferguson is the only player in the nation with 35-plus tackles, two-plus sacks and four-plus passes defended. In BGSU records dating back to 2000, he is the only Falcon to reach those numbers through a season’s first five games. He is No. 1 in the MAC and No. 27 in the nation with 5.2 solo tackles per game.

Horne is the only underclassman in the nation with 25-plus tackles, two-plus sacks and an interception. He is one of 10 FBS players in 2021 with those numbers.

Because of them and guys like 5-10, 200-pound free safety Jordan Anderson, who has 22 tackles, one tackle for a loss and an interception, the Falcons are feeling like they can play with anyone in the MAC.

“We definitely feel as a team we can win a lot more games against a lot more opponents this year. In the league, we feel like we can be one of the top contenders,” Anderson said.

Anderson said his team has been through a lot of highs and lows, defeating the Big Ten’s Minnesota, 14-10, and then losing the MAC opener to Kent State, 27-20.

“The team has definitely grown as a team and as a bond because we can do bigger things than we have done in the past with the big win at Minnesota, and against a great Kent team we fell just a little bit short. We know that as a team we can do better and win a lot of games this year,” Anderson said.

“With Kent State, we just hurt ourselves and we just had too many missed opportunities and we want to limit those against Akron. So that is basically what our game plan is going to be. If we miss an opportunity, that means a big play will happen and we don’t want that as a defense.”

BGSU coach Scot Loeffler says the defense has improved, but there is room for more growth.

“We’re a better tackling team right now. And we didn’t tackle well last week, plain and simple. You saw it out here, our body position stunk, we didn’t thud the football the way that we have been, we didn’t put our body in position to break down in a great football position, and it caught up with us,” Loeffler said.

“I’ve been around those teams and those great players and urgency, and that’s what we’re going to get with our team here soon. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re going to work like hell to get over the top. As soon as we get that down, we’ll be pretty good football team.”

Akron lost its MAC opener to Ohio, 34-17, and the Zips’ only win came over Bryant, 35-14. The Zips have lost to Ohio State (59-7), Temple (45-24) and Auburn (60-10). Loeffler says with a schedule like that, the losses do not necessarily mean a lot heading into Saturday.

“They’re just like us, extremely capable. You know, it’s going to be the team that comes in here and makes the fewest mistakes, but they’re just like us,” Loeffler said.

“They’re fighting, they’re trying to change, rebuild culture, and all that, it doesn’t happen overnight. And it’s going to be who cares more, in my opinion, it’s going to be, who cares more about preparation during the week, who cares more about doing the little things.

“After your preparation, you get out here and turn it loose and give it your all. The team that makes fewer mistakes will win this game.”