For more information, follow John Wagner on Twitter: @jwagnerblade
Or click here to check out the pages for BGSU athletics on The Blade web site.
For more information, follow John Wagner on Twitter: @jwagnerblade
Or click here to check out the pages for BGSU athletics on The Blade web site.
Yes, the Bowling Green football program has had the spotlight in recent weeks. But the BG men’s basketball team has been playing games as well, so here’s a look at where the Falcons stand at this point in the season.
Freshman guard Zack Denny also remains unavailable to the Falcons because problems with his left knee problems have caused him to miss an extensive amount of practice. “He’s having discomfort,” coach Louis Orr said of Denny. “He’s a little behind because he hasn’t practiced, and that’s hard for a freshman.”
“Spencer is a guy who can get to the line because he’s a good ‘attack’ guy,” Orr said. “Spencer went through a learning curve [last year]. He went home and worked on his shooting, his free-throw shooting. He has always been a confident guy who is aggressive and will attack. He is benefiting from an opportunity. At the end of the day, he has a knack for getting to the basket and scoring around the rack.”
As Bowling Green prepares for the bowl season, and the potential for a daily saga of a coaching search, here are some things fans from other schools need to know about the Falcons football program as it prepares to play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
The Falcons were a pre-season pick to finish second in the MAC East, but instead they won the division title with an impressive finish to the regular season. BG won its last four games by a combined scored of 176-17, including a 24-7 win at Buffalo Nov. 29 to claim the title.
In the MAC championship game at Ford Field Dec. 6 the Falcons knocked off previously unbeaten and 16th-ranked Northern Illinois 47-27. BG amassed 574 yards of total offense, two yards shy of the title game record, split nicely between 181 yards rushing and 393 yards passing. Quarterback Matt Johnson was named game MVP after completing 21-of-27 passes for 393 yards and a game-record five touchdowns -- to five different receivers.
In 2010 those seniors graduation, and the Falcons fell to 2-10. Those 10 losses were the most in program history. But in the following seasons BG began a steady rise, improving to 5-7 in 2011. In 2012 the Falcons were 8-4 overall and were 6-2 in MAC play, losing to Kent State in the next-to-last game of the regular season to finish second in the East Division. BG received a bid to the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, but lost to San Jose State
SPECIAL TEAMS OVERVIEW
Click here to read the story of the Falcons MAC championship game upset of No. 16 Northern Illinois Friday. ... Click here to read a column by The Blade's Dave Hackenberg from the MAC championship game.
Check back ... soon I will link to more feature stories written about the Falcons from the past season.
The Falcons won the Mid-American Conference championship by claiming a 47-27 victory over Northern Illinois at Detroit’s Ford Field on Friday, Dec. 6. Here’s a look back at the victory. ...
OPENING THOUGHTS: Not a bad win, eh?
TRICK QUESTION: If you watched the game, you know the Falcons had a lot of explosive plays on offense, especially in the passing game. So here’s my question: Which player had more running plays gain more than 10 yards, BG’s Travis Greene or NIU Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Lynch?
OFFENSE: If I told you a team had only one third-down conversion in the first half, how many points would you think they scored? Would you believe 31? That’s exactly what the Falcons did, going 1-for-3 on third downs in the first half and yet producing 31 points. How? The Falcons were exceptionally good on first down. Bowling Green ran 32 first-down plays … and gained first downs on 12 of them (that’s an absurd percentage, by the way). BG threw 12 passes on first down, and completed 11 of them for 274 yards (or 24.9 yards per completion, another absurd number). Only three of those 12 pass attempts did not result in a first down. I could go on, but here’s the point: By getting good yardage on first down, the Falcons avoided third downs or “predictable” play-calling situations. And when BG had the option to run or pass, the result usually was to gash the Huskies defense. Bowling Green ran 67 plays, and 24 of them (35.8 percent) gained at least 10 yards. That is ridiculous. There are nit-picks with the offense, such as just 4-of-10 on third downs and going just 4-for-5 in the Red Zone (including a missed field goal and a made field goal) as well as a pair of turnovers. But 574 yards and 47 points against this defense was a win. And it’s also worth noting that the fast start of the offense -- 17 points in the first quarter, 31 in the first half -- helped the BG defense because it took away some of the things Northern Illinois’ high-powered offense liked to do.
DEFENSE: The Falcons allowed 454 yards and 27 points. Sounds bad, doesn’t it? It’s not as bad as you would think. Bowling Green kept Northern Illinois UNDER its seasons averages (in MAC games) for total yards (569.8) and points (42.6). There’s also a good chance BG cost Jordan Lynch a road trip to New York (for the Heisman Trophy ceremony) by holding him to 126 yards rushing (he averaged 164.5 in MAC games) and 219 yards passing (he averaged 241.9). I was surprised that Northern Illinois ran a whopping 84 plays, but that helps explain in part the 454 yards (NIU is a good team, and that’s 5.5 yards per play). And that yardage total should come with an asterisk: 79 yards came on the final, meaningless, TD drive, meaning the Huskies had just 375 yards of total offense before that point (obviously WELL under their average). Northern Illinois had a pair of interceptions (after a MAC-low five during the season), so kudos to BG for that. The Falcons also forced NIU into 15 “negative” plays that gained less than three yards; combined with 19 incompletions, that means 34 of 82 plays (41.5 percent) gained less than three yards. But I come back to those first numbers, and give the BG defense props for holding Northern Illinois in check.
SPECIAL TEAMS: What a crazy night for Tyler Tate, eh? Tate connected on a 26-yard field goal early in the game, then missed a 26-yard field goal early in the third quarter when things were getting tight. But Tate later connected on a 52-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, only to have an extra point blocked. … The Falcons didn’t have as many problems in the punt-cover game as they did at Buffalo. Ryan Burbrink had one fair-catch on NIU’s only punt of the game, and it traveled 42 yards. … Punter Brian Schmiedebusch had only one punt, and it traveled 48 yards before it was fair caught. … Anthony Farinella posted a touchback on three of his nine kickoffs. He averaged 62.7 yards on his nine kickoffs, but NIU had 132 yards on the six returns (22.0 yards per return) and had returns of 36 and 32 yards. Of the nine kickoffs, the Huskies started or the 25 or worse six of the nine times, and one of the three outside the 25 began on the 27, which isn’t bad. …The Falcons almost got caught with their pants down on NIU’s on-side kick, but two penalties wiped that play out. BG’s two returns each covered 21 yards; on the two returns, the Falcons started inside the 25, so they both were considered losses. NIU had three touchbacks, and BG covered the late on-side kickoff.
ANSWERS TO THE TRICK QUESTION: Above I asked which player had more rushing plays gain at least 10 yards, BG’s Travis Greene or NIU’s Jordan Lynch. If you tried to guess from the rushing numbers, you won’t get much help as Greene ran for 133 yards on 26 carries while Lynch finished with 126 rushing yards on 26 carries. The answer is Greene, who had eight rushing for at least 10 yards compared to for four Lynch.
THE LAST WORD: Are the Falcons ready for the future, which includes a bowl bid and fairly constant reminders that coach Dave Clawson will be a candidate for any high-level coaching vacancy?
WANT MORE? Here you go … First, click here to read this Blade game story from the contest and click here to read the Blade notebook, which talks about all the young players returning to the program next season. Click here to read about some of the questions that need to be answered in the coming days. Click here to read the BiG Look at the contest. Click here to read the thoughts of Blade columnist Dave Hackenberg from the contest. Finally, click here to view a photo gallery from the contest courtesy of The Blade's Andy Morrison.
The Bowling Green football claimed the Mid-American Conference championship game victory with an impressive 47-27 smackdown of No. 16 Northern Illinois at Detroit’s Ford Field on Dec. 7. The Falcons are 10-3 overall this season and now await their bowl game site and opponent. Here’s a look back at the contest. ...
BiG TWITTER POST: Falcons pile up 574 yards of total offense while holding NIU’s Jordan Lynch in check to post 47-27 win in MAC champ at Ford Field Friday
BiG OVERVIEW: Both offenses got rolling right away, starting with Bowling Green’s 75-yard opening drive that took just five plays, including a 28-yard TD pass from Matt Johnson to tight end Tyler Beck at 12:27 of the quarter. Northern Illinois responded with an 11-play, 73-yard drive for a touchdown, but BG used a 61-yard catch-and-run pass from Johnson to Ronnie Moore to set up a 26-yard field goal by Tyler Tate at 6:49 of the opening period. The BG defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense again roared to live, using just five plays to cover 76 yards and scoring on a 36-yard strike from Johnson to Moore. NIU got a 51-yard field goal on the second play of the second quarter, then after a BG punt the Huskies used a short drive to kick another field goal, this one from 45 yards, to make it 17-13 with 11:22 still to play. Northern Illinois tried an on-side kick (that worked) but was nullified by two penalties. When the Falcons got the ball, they drove 88 yards on nine plays and got a touchdown on a 22-yard pass from Johnson to Heath Jackson with 5:39 still to play. After an exchange of turnovers BG got the ball on its own 49 and drove for a touchdown that came on a 12-yard pass from Johnson to Alex Bayer with just 13 seconds to play in the first half. Northern Illinois started the second half with a seven-play, 64-yard drive for a touchdown, and the two teams each missed a field goal on their next possessions before the Falcons took command. BG drove 39 yards and got a 52-yard field goal from Tate on the second play of the fourth quarter. The Falcons Aaron Foster then intercepted a pass by NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch and returned it to the Huskies’ 20, and four plays (and 2:47 later) Johnson threw a shovel pass that Travis Greene caught for a six-yard TD. Northern Illinois drove a late in the contest for a touchdown, but only 14 seconds remained.
BiG PLAY: There were several big plays in the contest, but I think the biggest came just before halftime. The Falcons led 24-13 with 1:22 left in the second quarter, but a fumble by Travis Greene gave the ball to Northern Illinois on BG’s 49 with enough time to score a TD that would make the game significantly tighter. The Falcons defense forced NIU into a third-and-six from the BG 45, and when Jordan Lynch attempted a pass the Falcons’ Brian Sutton tipped the ball into the air right to Ted Ouellet, who caught the interception on the Falcons’ 49. The play stopped the Huskies from scoring and gave BG a chance to score, and the Falcons took advantage with a TD just before half that made the score 31-13. The game was never a one-score contest again.
OFFENSIVE BiG MAN: When a team gains 574 yards of total offense, it’s obvious there will be a number of candidates. But the leading candidate was sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson, who completed 21-of-27 passes for 393 yards and a MAC championship game record five touchdowns. He also had 10 rushing attempts and finished with 33 yards rushing. … Sophomore running back Travis Greene had another big day, running for 133 yards and a touchdown on 26 rushes. Greene also caught two passes for 23 yards and another score. … Senior tight end Alex Bayer finished seven catches for 124 yards and a touchdown, leading all players in receptions for the game. … Freshman wide receiver Ronnie Moore caught four passes for 145 yards and a touchdown, leading all receivers in passing yards for the game. He also had one jet sweep that gained 11 yards Here’s the amazing stat: All five of those plays (and hence all of that yardage) came in the first quarter. … Heath Jackson very quietly finished with six receptions, second on the team, good for 58 yards and a touchdown. … Also, big props to the offensive line that obviously played a key role in the offensive explosion. BG finished with 181 net yards rushing, and the line allowed just two sacks.
DEFENSIVE BiG MAN: It may seem funny to say the defense played well in a game where the opposition finished with 454 yards and 27 points, but it clearly did. BG forced a pair of interceptions and kept NIU from scoring on more than half of its possessions, including forcing four field-goal attempts. …If you made me pick one player, I’d pick senior cornerback Aaron Foster. Foster finished with five tackles, including four solo stops. He also had one interception for 37 yards, and he broke up two other passes – including an end-zone break-up where he wasn’t the primary defender on the play, and managed to keep NIU from scoring a touchdown. … Junior safety Ryland Ward finished with 11 tackles, including nine solo stops. … Junior linebacker D.J. Lynch also finished with 11 tackles, five of which were solos, and had a tackle for loss as well as a quarterback hurry. … Senior cornerback Cameron Truss finished with seven solo tackles on his way to eight stops overall. He also broke up one pass. … Junior rover Brian Sutton finished with seven tackles and one quarterback hurry. He also tipped a pass at the line that was intercepted by Ted Ouellet. … Junior defensive end Bryan Thomas finished with six tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, and also had a quarterback hurry. … Listen, this list could go on and on. Let’s just give full marks to everyone who took a snap on defense Friday night.
SPECIAL TEAMS BiG MAN: It wasn’t a perfect day for sophomore placekicker Tyler Tate, who missed a 26-yard field goal and also had an extra point blocked. But Tate also made a 26-yard field goal and connected on a career-best 52-yard field goal while making his other five extra points. ….Senior punter Brian Schmiedebusch didn’t have much work, but his lone punt traveled 48 yards and was not returned. It’s hard to argue with that.
BiG NUMBERS: Sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson was named Bowling Green’s player of the game, and it’s easy to see why. Johnson completed 21-of-27 passes (77.8 percent) for 393 yards and five touchdowns. And those numbers just give the full measure of how impressive Johnson’s passing day was. Johnson threw five TD passes to FIVE different receivers. The Falcons averaged 18.7 yards per completion (which is impressive) and 14.6 yards per attempt (which is extraordinary). Of the 21 completions by BG, 14 went for at least 10 yards (66.7 percent), while eight covered at least 20 yards (38.1 percent). In short, a huge day for Johnson and the BG passing game.
BiG QUESTION: Two big questions still remain … First, where will the Falcons go bowling this season. And second, will Dave Clawson remain the Falcons coach?
WANT MORE? Click here to read The Blade game story from Friday’s game. Click here to read the notebook from the contest, which features the young skill players in the program. Click here to view a photo gallery from Saturday’s contest courtesy of The Blade's Andy Morrison. And click here to read a column from The Blade columnist Dave Hackenberg about the contest.
ALSO: Click here to read some updated bowl projections for the Falcons.
The good news for the BG football team is that the Falcons have secured a post-season bowl berth by winning the Mid-American Conference's East Division title. But what bowl is the Falcons' final destination? Good question (NOTE: Saturday update at bottom).
Before I go any deeper, let's get something straight: This is called the "silly season" for a reason. Some times logic and common sense are thrown out the window. So we'll try to use a little common sense, realizing that it may not apply here.
Let's get started with some of the projections by football media around the country. A few notes: I didn't use every projection available; I tried to use projections made by people I thought might have some insider information on the process. So here we go ...
Athlon Sports: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl v. UNLV. Click here to read the entire bowl projection.
CBS Sports: GoDaddy Bowl v. Arkansas State. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
College Football News: Little Caesars Pizza Bowl v. Boston College. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
ESPN (Brad Edwards): Famous Idaho Potato Bowl vs. UNLV. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
ESPN (Mark Schlabach): Little Caesars Pizza Bowl v. Pittsburgh. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
Phil Steele: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl v. San Jose State (sound familiar?). Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
Sports Illustrated: Poinsettia Bowl v. Utah State. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
USA Today: GoDaddy Bowl v. Arkansas State. Click here to read the entire bowl projections.
So what do we have? Three of the eight predict the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, two predict the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, two predict the GoDaddy Bowl and one predicts the Poinsettia Bowl. Clearly there is no consensus.
Here are a few things to consider as we march towards a solution. First, much depends on whether the Falcons win or lose Friday. If Northern Illinois wins, they are practically BCS Bowl bound (and probably headed to the Fiesta Bowl). Click here to read more about the courtship of the Huskies by the Fiesta.
If Bowling Green wins the MAC championship game, NIU will not be heading to a BCS bid. That leads me to a second point of information: How does the Mid-American Conference distribute bowl bids?
The MAC has three sure bowl bids (the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the GoDaddy Bowl and the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl). The MAC has four "secondary" agreements stating the league will fill bids with bowls that can't get another league to fill its responsibility. In this instance, it looks as if no more than two of those secondary agreements will come into play, the Poinsettia Bowl and the Beef 'O' Brady Bowl. So that means the probability is high that only five MAC teams get bids, especially since several leagues, most notably the ACC, have more bowl-eligible teams than bowl bids, making the ACC schools available to fill openings other leagues can't feel (the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is a perfect example, as the ACC is expected to fill the bid the Big Ten can't handle).
Here's where things get tricky. I believe the order the bowls will select MAC teams is the GoDaddy Bowl first, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl second and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl third. That doesn't mean the GoDaddy automatically gets the team it wants; often the bowls will work with the MAC office to get a good "fit" for all of its teams ... meaning, just to use an example, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl may choose a team close to Detroit to try to boost attendance, ranther than picking the "second" best team on the MAC's list.
Also, both the bowls and the MAC are cognizant of "match ups," meaning the MAC wants its strongest teams facing the best competition. Again using the LCP Bowl as an example, the fact that an ACC team is likely to come to Detroit means the MAC will want one of its strongest teams at Ford Field to face them. If NIU is in a BCS Bowl, that would likely mean either Ball State or Bowling Green would be pushed to Detroit.
Make sense? I hope so, because now things get really tricky. The sticking point is how MAC teams are ranked. ... The consensus is that Northern Illinois is the "top" team, followed by Ball State and Bowling Green on a second tier, then Buffalo and Toledo on a third tier. Cutting to the chase, I would be surprised if Central Michigan or Ohio receive bowl bids this year.
Read this article to get a sense of how Ball State is viewed by the bowls.
If NIU is not in a BCS Bowl (and "available"), I would think the Huskies would be headed to the GoDaddy Bowl. If NIU is in a BCS Bowl, it will depend on whether the GoDaddy Bowl considers Ball State or Bowling Green the better draw (and that's a tough one to answer). In that instance, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl may push for a particular team to come to Detroit and face an ACC team (which would be considered a stronger opponent than Arkansas State, which has accepted a bid to the GoDaddy Bowl).
Long story short: the only way Bowling Green would slip past one of those two bowls, in my opinion, is if NIU does not make the BCS. If BG beats the Huskies, and the LCPB decides it would rather have Ball State (which might make sense if you consider it may be difficult to sell tickets to a SECOND Bowling Green game at Ford Field in three weeks), that would be the scenario that would send BG to Boise for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
But remember, this is called the "silly season." That means all this may change in the blink of a eye. But it's fun to talk about, isn't it?
UPDATE (Dec. 7, 1:30 p.m.)
Well, as you all know, the Falcons defeated Northern Illinois to win the MAC championship game and knock the Huskies out of the BCS bowl picture. Here is what I'm hearing ... Northern Illinois will be going to the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Nothing official, mind you; just a hunch and a whisper.
My prediction is that the Falcons will be offered a bid to play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit's Ford Field on Thursday, Dec. 26, at 6 p.m., for several reasons. First, Bowling Green's sales of 4,000 tickets and 10 busses worth of fans to the MAC championship game obviously appeals to the bowl people. Second, the Falcons would be a worthy opponent for the ACC team that I expect will be in the contest (the two schools I hear most in that regard are Pittsburgh and Syracuse, in that order). The MAC would like a strong opponent to face a team from a BCS conference, and the Falcons win over NIU fits that bill. Third, BG certainly made a splash Friday night, beating a nationally ranked team on television. Bowl officials would hope that would help spur ticket sales in Detroit.
So, for those reasons, my GUESS is that the Falcons will be invited to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Remember two things: First, this is a guess. Second, it's the "silly season," and things can change in a moment. We will all find out for sure Sunday.
Remember how I said last week there wasn’t much more left to determine before this year’s Mid-American Conference Power Rankings can be cast in stone?
Well, forget that. Bowling Green earned a higher spot in this week’s rankings by knocking off Buffalo to win the MAC East Division title. But how much higher? Read on to find out. …
For those of you new to the rankings, the premise is simple: If the MAC didn’t have divisions, how would the league’s 13 teams be ranked? This is now a late-season estimation, based primarily on what has taken place on the field this year.
So without further ado, here is a look at the league’s 13 teams heading into the MAC championship game, the bowl season -- and the off-season. The teams are presented in the order I would rank them at this point in the season, including each team’s bowl chances. Here we go. …
1. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (12-0, 8-0) (LW #1): The victory over Western Michigan cemented the Huskies position atop these standings, along with the league and offensive MVP awards for quarterback Jordan Lynch. Now NIU looks to cement its position in a BCS Bowl with a victory over Bowling Green in the MAC championship game Friday. Last Week: Beat Western Michigan, 33-14 (Tuesday, Nov. 26). This Week: Versus Bowling Green in MAC championship (Friday, Dec. 5).
Bowl possibilities: Excellent. In fact, the only question that remains is whether this team will be a BCS buster for the second year in a row.
2. BALL STATE (10-2, 7-1) (LW #2): The Cards finished their regular season by beating Miami convincingly, so now all that’s left is to figure out what bowl this bowl-worthy team has earned. That process will be an interesting one: Are the Cards used as leverage for a “secondary” bowl (like the Beef ‘O’ Brady, the bowl they visited last season)? Or do they get picked by one of the MAC’s three primary tie-ins? Last Week: Beat Miami, 55-14. This Week: Idle.
Bowl possibilities: Excellent. The question is “where” BSU will play, not “if” the Cards will be bowling.
3. BOWLING GREEN (9-3, 7-1) (LW #5): The Falcons finished the season as strong as any MAC team, dominating Buffalo to win that East Division-clinching contest on the road. BG now is guaranteed a bowl bid for the second year in a row and third time in five seasons. The Falcons face similar questions as do Ball State in terms of “where” they go rather than “if” they go. Last Week: Beat Buffalo, 24-7. This Week: Versus Northern Illinois in MAC championship (Friday, Dec. 5).
Bowl possibilities: Excellent. Winning the East Division title guaranteed their bowl spot.
4. TOLEDO (7-5, 5-3) (LW #3): I’m sure UT fans are howling, since the Rockets beat BG head-to-head -- on the Falcons home field, no less. Here’s why I made the move: If the two teams met THIS WEEK, would you expect the Rockets to win? I wouldn’t, especially with UT’s injuries at running back and the unfocused performance last week at Akron. I will say this: If the Rockets can get some of their running backs healthy, I wouldn’t want to face them in a bowl. Last Week: Lost at Akron, 31-29. This Week: Idle.
Bowl possibilities: Strong, although the loss to Akron hurts. What helps is UT’s history of traveling well, although that reputation clearly took a hit last season.
5. BUFFALO (8-4, 6-2) (LW #4): The loss to Bowling Green shouldn’t ruin this team’s bowl dreams, but it certainly didn’t help. What does help the Bulls in the bowl selection process is having senior LB Khalil Mack as a “name” attraction. It will be interesting to see how the bowl selection process pans out for this squad. Last Week: Lost to Bowling Green, 24-7. This Week: Idle.
Bowl possibilities: Strong. If the MAC only receives four bids, the selection process between Toledo and Buffalo will be fascinating. The Bulls are hurt by a head-to-head loss to the Rockets, though.
6. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (6-6, 5-3) (LW #6): The Chippewas repeated last season’s late run, finishing on a winning streak to sneak into bowl eligibility with a 6-6 record. If my math is good, 73 teams are eligible, with at least one more possibility. Worse, a few of the “power” conferences have more bowl-eligible teams than bowl ties (curse you ACC and Pac 12!). Last Week: Beat Eastern Michigan, 42-10. This Week: Idle.
Bowl possibilities: Weak. I think the Chippewas need some help to get a bid. Then again, I thought there was no chance last season. ....
7. AKRON (5-7, 4-4) (LW #7): Ah, if only I had stuck with my first impression, I would have looked pretty smart after picking the Zips to upset Toledo and win for the fourth time in their last five contests. But no guts, no glory, eh? Still, a good win -- in front of the home crowd for an extra push -- as UA looks to take another step forward next season. Last Week: Beat Toledo, 31-29. This Week: Season over.
Bowl possibilities: Not eligible.
8. KENT STATE (4-8, 3-5) (LW #8): The victory over Ohio two weeks ago may not seem like much, but I would disagree. First, it is a positive finish to a season that had plenty of negatives. Second, it showed that, had the Golden Flashes been healthier, this season might have gone better. This team will suffer some big losses in terms of personnel, but I think it has a chance to bounce back -- perhaps as quickly as next season. Last Week: Season over. This Week: Season over.
Bowl possibilities: Not eligible.
9. OHIO (7-5, 4-4) (LW #9): Good thing I didn’t predict an Ohio loss to UMass, although I did hint at it. Beating the Minutemen, especially in impressive fashion, was important after the Bobcats seemed to mail it in over the previous few weeks. Still, that season-ending win may not be enough to erase the memory of how poorly OU played in the final weeks of the season. Last Week: Beat UMass, 51-23. This Week: Idle.
Bowl possibilities: Weak. Yes, they are eligible. But there crash-and-burn finish before the UMass game has them on a tightrope. In my opinion, if the MAC gets six bowl bids, Ohio claims the sixth (even though CMU beat them head-to-head). But my opinion is that the MAC only gets five bids at most.
10. EASTERN MICHIGAN (2-10, 1-7) (LW #10): The 2013 season ends not a moment too soon for the Eagles, especially when you consider all the hardship this team faced this past season. The good news is that a new coaching hire allows this program to wipe the slate clean and take some time to try and build the program. Last Week: Lost at Central Michigan, 42-10. This Week: Season over.
Bowl possibilities: Not eligible.
11. WESTERN MICHIGAN (1-11, 1-7) (LW #11): All good things have to come to an end, and so this season brings to a close to the efforts of one of my favorite punching bags. The good news for Broncos fans: All of the things people have been saying about this program having the resources to compete are true. Now comes the difficult task of building from the dumpster fire of this past season. Last Week: Lost to Northern Illinois, 33-14 (Tuesday, Nov. 26). This Week: Season over.
Bowl possibilities: Not eligible.
12. MASSACHUSETTS (1-11, 1-7) (LW #12): We say goodbye to the Minutemen as their basketball program battles to remain nationally ranked and competes for an Atlantic 10 title. It will be interesting to see if the basketball success translates into more support for the football program … or less. Last Week: Lost at Ohio, 51-23. This Week: Season over.
Bowl possibilities: Not eligible.
13. MIAMI (0-12, 0-8) (LW #13): The RedHawks have their new coach, former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. That is a bit of an advantage for Miami, as the RedHawks have a coach in place as the recruiting season hits its high points. And Martin will have to have instant recruiting success if he wants to turn this program around quickly. Last Week: Lost at Ball State, 55-14. This Week: Season over.
Bowl possibilities: Not eligible.
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Technorati Tags: Akron, Ball State, BG, BGSU, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Falcons, Kent State, MAC, Miami, Mid-American Conference, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo, UMass, Western Michigan
Here are a few notes and quotes for the Falcons as they continue preparations for Friday's Mid-American Conference championship game against Northern Illinois at Ford Field in Detroit. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. for the contest, which will be televised on ESPN2. ...
The Falcons remain relatively injury-free heading into Friday's game against NIU. BG will not have junior rover Justin Ford, who has not been cleared for practice because he has experienced concussive symptoms. Ford has not been in uniform for BG’s last two games. ... Freshman running back Fred Coppet also is doubtful for Friday’s contest; he too is suffering from concussive symptoms. Coppet was not in uniform last Friday at Buffalo. ... Travis Greene, who was injured late in the win over the Bulls, is expected to play. Greene left the game with knee discomfort but returned to the field; he has practiced with the Falcons all week without incident.
Of course, saying the Falcons are relatively "injury-free" is relative. Junior rover Gabe Martin, an All-MAC second team pick, is out for the season, as is sophomore wide receiver Chris Gallon, junior wide receiver Jared Cohen, and sophomore cornerbacks Darrell Hunter and Diontre Delk.
“If they catch you in a formation you don’t know how to handle, Bang! Bang! Bang! They put different players in positions where they have to make plays.”
“If you asked our football players, ‘Why are you stronger? Why are winning games in the fourth quarter?’ they would give you two reasons. One is their work ethic, and the other is coach Hourigan. That’s not an accident. We’ve got older guys who are more physically developed, and he does a great job of getting them ready. I think the great thing about coach Hourigan is that he knows when to push them, and he knows when to take his foot off the gas.
“The fact that we are healthier right now, and probably fresher than we have been all season, as we get to game No. 13 is a great compliment to our strength coach.”
Technorati Tags: BG, BGSU, Bowling Green, Chris Gallon, Darrell Hunter, Dave Clawson, Diontre Delk, Falcons, football, Fred Coppet, Gabe Martin, Huskies, Jared Cohen, Justin Ford, MAC, Mid-American Conference, NIU, Northern Illinois, Travis Greene
Steve Nitz covers Northern Illinois football for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle and online at HuskieWire. He was kind enough to answer six questions (well, actually 17, but who is counting?) about the Huskies heading into Friday's Mid-American Conference championship game. ...
They've seemed to handle it just fine. At the beginning of the year, there really wasn't a ton of talk about going to back-to-back BCS bowls, but once NIU got through its non-conference schedule unbeaten, with the BCS standings starting to be released, players started getting asked about it and there was more talk among the fan base. Players have said exactly what you would expect them to say. NIU has seemed to get better and better as the season has gone on. Rod Carey is not making players available for interviews this week, which I did find odd. He said he wants them to be focusing on Bowling Green.
I guess it does have to do with statistics, but he doesn't turn the ball over (only five interceptions), and he's efficient with his passes. It's rare to see him really make an ill-advised throw or throw into double coverage, stuff like that.
Carey said Tommylee Lewis will be back, and I think there's a good chance Da'Ron Brown and Angelo Sebastiano take the field as well. As far as other weapons, tailback Cameron Stingily has ran for over 1,000 yards, and sophomore wideout Juwan Brescacin has started to come on. The offensive line does not get enough credit, it's been great all season long. Even with the loss of left tackle Tyler Loos, who broke his leg against UMass in early November, the group has not missed a beat.
The defense is better than it looks on paper. All season long, the Huskies have been a much better second-half team. I think a lot of the reason for the difference with run/pass is the fact teams are always playing from behind, so they rack up the yards that way. NIU is actually No. 13 in the country in passing efficiency defense which to me is a much better stat. Ball State and Toledo ran the ball on the Huskies during the first half, but the run games slowed down after halftime, some of that obviously due to the fact Lynch and the Huskie offense were able to build a lead.
Besides Ward, one of the best defensive players in the MAC and an NFL prospect, defensive tackle Ken Bishop has been a force inside. The linebacking corps of Jamaal Bass, Boomer Mays and Michael Santacaterina has been solid, while safety Dechane Durante has been a nice compliment to Ward, who just makes plays. We may not be talking about a BCS bid if not for his fourth-quarter pick against Iowa which set up a game-winning field goal. He also plays nickelback when the Huskies bring in an extra DB, and leads the team with 77 tackles.
I definitely think Sims' play is a concern. He struggled against the Rockets - missing the three field goals, and he missed a 34-yarder last week against Western Michigan. NIU could be counting on him in a close game. Tyler Wedel averages 40.8 yards per punt, which ranks sixth in the MAC. Return duties have kind of been a revolving door. Sebastiano was the punt returner but was suspended for a week and then got hurt, so lately it's been redshirt freshman Matt Williams back there. Cornerback Paris Logan has been the Huskies' main kick returner.
The Falcons won the Mid-American Conference’s East Division title with a 24-7 win against Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Friday, Nov. 29. Here’s a look back at the victory. ...
OPENING THOUGHTS: Friday’s victory over Buffalo accomplished two things. First, it pushed the Falcons into the MAC Championship game, which will be at Ford Field in Detroit on Friday, Dec. 6 starting at 8 p.m. Second, it guaranteed the Falcons would receive a bowl bid, since each division champ is guaranteed to be bowling. In short, another step forward for the BG program under coach Dave Clawson.
TRICK QUESTION: By now faithful readers know my fascination with “negative” plays -- for me, those are plays that gain less than three yards, because if you run four negative plays you can’t get a first down. Also, these “negative” plays get the offense off-schedule and turn into punts, and often lead to turnovers. So here's the question: in the Falcons game at Buffalo, which team ran a greater number of plays that gained less than three yards? For bonus points, which team ran more “negative” plays in the second half?
OFFENSE: It’s been overstated a bit that the Falcons offense did nothing in the first half, since BG did pile up 130 yards rushing (on 25 carries). That’s a pretty good half of work, thanks in large part to 105 yards by Travis Greene. But the other offensive numbers in the first half weren’t good: 3-of-12 passing for just 22 yards, and 1-for-8 on third downs. The offense had 10 “negative” plays (plays that gained less than three yards) and five plays that gained at least 10 yards (including rushes of 20 and 33 yards by Greene). But in the second half the Falcons came to life and more than doubled its first-half performance, gaining 342 yards (on 37 plays, the same number of plays as the first half, when BG had just 152 yards). The rushing game had the same 130 yards, so the difference was the passing attack, which saw Matt Johnson complete 8-of-14 for 212 yards and a TD. An amazing stat: for the game BG gained 20.9 yards per completion, which is ridiculously high. Bowling Green also had nine pass plays gain at least 10 yards, including four that gained at least 20 yards (again, all in the second half). The Falcons were just 6-of-17 on third down for the game (35.3 percent), but were 5-of-9 in the second half. BG dominated time of possession (34:31 for the game), but also was fortunate that an interception did not hurt them and that a fumble came too late in the game to matter.
DEFENSE: The play of the defense for the past month has been nothing short of sensational, and the Falcons D was that good again Friday in Buffalo. Bowling Green allowed just 236 yards of total offense, including just 15 yards rushing. Branden Oliver, one of the best running backs in the MAC, gained just 46 yards on 18 carries (none longer than nine yards). While Buffalo threw for 157 yards in the second half (and 221 yards in the game), those numbers are skewed significantly by the two late “garbage time” drives in which UB completed 8-of-11 passes for 84 yards. If you take away the final four minutes, Buffalo’s passing numbers for the game were 13-of-34 (38.2 percent) for just 137 yards. And when you include the five BG sacks for 30 yards in losses, not to mention nine tackles for loss overall, you get a portrait in domination. Until the fourth quarter, the Bulls had just four plays that gained more than 10 yards -- and three of them came on UB’s lone touchdown drive. The Falcons also forced a turnover on an interception. Best of all, it was a solid performance by a “unit” that didn’t need one player to make a significantly greater number of tackles than did anyone else. In short, it was a “championship” performance.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Let’s start with the bad, shall we? The Falcons really struggled to cover UB’s rugby-style punting game. Ryan Burbrink had two fair-catches on eight punts and had two punt returns for no yardage. Buffalo averaged 41.7 yards per punt (net), and had four punts downed inside BG’s 20. Until early in the fourth quarter, when BooBoo Gates served as an “up” back and fair-caught a 32-yard punt, BG struggled with the rugby punt game. … For the second week in a row Anthony Farinella had a kickoff go out of bounds for a penalty. He averaged 58.2 yards on his five kickoffs, and Buffalo averaged 24.2 yards on five returns. Farinella did not have a touchback, and the Bulls had consistently good field position following BG kickoffs. Buffalo started on its 21 on the kickoff late in the third quarter, but the other four resulted in good field position for UB (the 29, 33, 41 and 36). … Tyler Tate again performed well, making a 40-yard field goal and connecting on all three PAT kicks. … Punter Brian Schmiedebusch averaged 36.9 yards on seven punts, with a long of 53. He had three punts downed inside Buffalo’s 20 and one touchback. BG’s net punting on the day was 34.0 yards per punt. Also the Falcons recovered a UB fumble on a punt (kudos to long snapper Greg Hohenstein on the recovery). … BooBoo Gates had kickoff returns of 28 and 27 yards. BG’s drives following kickoffs started on its own 35 and 37 yard lines, both of which are extremely good.
ANSWERS TO THE TRICK QUESTION: Above I asked which team in the Buffalo-BG game ran a greater number of plays that gained less than three yards? Based on the total offense, you would assume it was the Bulls, right? Well, Buffalo had 18 plays go for three yards or less (not including incompletions), while Bowling Green had 25. Even if you narrow it down to true “negative” plays -- plays that gained nothing or lost yardage (again, not including incompletions) -- Buffalo had nine and BG had 15. In the second half alone, BG ran 15 plays that gained three yards or less, while the Bulls ran just seven. So why are Bowling Green’s offensive numbers better? The Falcons ran 15 plays that gained at least 10 yards, eight that gained 20 or more and five that covered at least 30 yards. Buffalo had 12 plays gain 10 yards or more (eight were pass plays in the fourth quarter when BG played “prevent” defense), and only one play gain at least 20 yards. All those positives help BG overcome the negatives.
THE LAST WORD: Are the Falcons ready for Jordan Lynch and the West Division champs from Northern Illinois, who are looking to earn a BCS bowl bid for the second straight season? We will all find out Friday at Ford Field in Detroit starting at 8 p.m.
WANT MORE? Here you go … First, click here to read this Blade game story from Friday's victory and click here to read the Blade notebook from Friday's game, which includes a look at Shaun Joplin and his big second-half performance. Click here to read some extra notes and quotes from Friday’s game. Click here to read the BiG Look at the contest.
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