At Doyt L. Perry Stadium Saturday, the public address system played Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” during the final minutes of the game.
“The hurt doesn’t show, but the pain still grows. It’s no stranger to you and me,” Collins’ voice vibrated across the stadium.
That must be how Bowling Green State University fans were feeling as the Falcons lost a 35-20 Mid-American Conference to Akron in front of 17.797 in attendance.
After losing its second consecutive MAC contest against a northeastern Ohio opponent, the Falcons fell to 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the league. Akron got its first MAC win, improving to 2-4 and 1-1.
“We’re proud of our effort. Effort is not the problem, it’s the attention to detail,” BGSU coach Scot Loeffler said. “It’s the little things. Everything matters. Everything counts. And we need to learn how to win.”
BGSU junior defensive lineman Karl Brooks, who had two sacks and 3½ tackles for a loss, added, ““We learned preparation matters. Attention to detail matters. We’re close as a young team, but we just have to kick back in.”
BGSU seemed to be in control at the onset, driving 75 yards on eight plays and scoring on the opening possession.
BGSU senior quarterback Matt McDonald threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Tyler Broden. McDonald hit Broden, who had beaten his defender, in stride while running straight to the end zone untouched.
Then came three BGSU possessions into the red zone, and a fourth that took the Falcons to the Zips’ 24-yard line, but the Falcons came away with no touchdowns.
Instead, the Falcons got six points on two field goals by senior place kicker Nate Needham — one from 35 yards with 5:45 remaining in the first quarter and a 26-yarder with 9:28 remaining in the half.
That gave BGSU a 13-0 lead, but the damage done to the Zips could have been much worse. The inability to get six points came back to haunt the Falcons. Loeffler said his team should have put 28 more points on the board.
Instead, Akron scored 35 unanswered points, and it was the Zips that eventually put the game out of reach.
Two of BGSU’s early scoring opportunities came after junior free safety Jordan Anderson managed to recover two turnovers on two successive Akron possessions.
After Needham’s first field goal, Akron sophomore running back Anthony Williams fumbled and Anderson recovered at the Zips’ 29-yard line.
To open the Falcons’ ensuing possession, McDonald threw an 11-yard pass to redshirt freshman running back Taron Keith.
Four carries by freshman back Jaison Patterson advanced the ball until the Falcons had a first down at the Zips’ 1-yard line.
However, four attempts to punch it in from one yard out failed, and the Falcons came away with no points.
On Akron’s next possession, Anderson picked off a pass thrown by Akron senior quarterback Kato Nelson at the Zips’ 24.
Two plays later, Akron junior cornerback Charles Amankwaa stepped in front of a BGSU receiver, intercepting a McDonald pass and ending the threat.
Akron freshman running back Blake Hester got the Zips on the board on a 1-yard run with 6:07 remaining in the first half.
Nelson completed 6-of-10 passes for 91 yards, but was replaced by freshman quarterback Zach Gibson, who completed 14-of-15 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns, starting in the second half.
Gibson threw 1- and 9-yard TD passes to freshman wide receiver Konata Mumpfield and a 21-yard TD strike to junior tight end Nik Ognenovic, who got his first college reception and TD.
A lot of the success Akron had resulted from Gibson’s ability to make things happen while running from BGSU defensive lineman.
“I thought they made plays … and broken plays they had recovered,” Loeffler said. “When we got out of coverage a few times, the guy (Gibson) scrambled around and made a heck of a play. But that’s football, you got to stay in coverage. We need to do a better job in that.”
Akron got its fifth touchdown on a 37-yard TD run from freshman running back Blake Hester with 8:55 remaining in the game.
Akron coach Tom Arth loved the way his team turned the game around offensively.
“Everything that we talk about all the time we were able to go out there and do and play as a team. Get that touchdown and then do it again. It was a great moment for our team and such great growth,” Arth said.
“I think we are growing up. First of all, all that matters now is what happens from here. It’s a turning point only if we make it that.”
For BGSU, Broden got his second TD catch of the game on a 10-yard pass from McDonald with 8:03 remaining to close out the scoring.
Hester finished with 120 yards rushing on 20 carries and Mumpfield caught six passes for 106 yards to lead the Zips.
For the Falcons, McDonald completed 21 of 35 passes for 257 yards, throwing over 200 yards for the fifth time in his career, but he had three interceptions. Broden caught four passes for a career-high 111 yards.
BGSU senior wide receiver Cavon Croom caught two passes for 43 yards, junior wide receiver Austin Osborne had five catches for 35 yards, Keith caught five passes for 31 yards, junior tight end Christian Sims had three catches for 15 yards, and sophomore tight end Andrew Bench had one 15-yard reception.
Patterson led the Falcons’ ground attack with a career-high 79 yards rushing on 15 carries and freshman running back Nick Mosley had 21 yards on eight carries.
Defensively for the Falcons, senior strong safety Sy Dabney and senior cornerback Devin Taylor blocked a field goal and a punt, and senior cornerback Davon Ferguson forced a fumble.
Junior outside linebacker Darren Anders led BGSU with 10 tackles, including eight solo, plus one sack for eight yards and a tackle for a loss of nine yards. Anders also recovered a blocked punt and advanced it into the red zone late in the game.
After the blocked punt, a McDonald pass was intercepted by Akron junior strong safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell, ending a potential scoring drive that could have brought the Falcons back to within a touchdown with just under six minutes remaining.