Twenty-nine first downs, 513 yards of offense and nearly 40 minutes with possession of the ball: all season highs for the Ohio Bobcats. After seeing the stat sheet from Saturday’s MAC showdown between Ohio and Bowling Green, one would assume that Ohio was able to upset the reigning MAC champions, but that assumption was far from the truth.
The Bowling Green Falcons defeated Ohio, 31-13, on Homecoming Weekend in Athens, but the deficit should have been much less than 18.
“What matters in the end is making plays to put points on the board and not hurting yourself while trying to do that,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said.
Bowling Green (5-2, 3-0 MAC) jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead after scoring on their first two possessions, the second of which was enabled by a J.D. Sprague fumble on Ohio’s first offensive snap.
Ohio responded with two first quarter field goals from Josiah Yazdani on consecutive drives. The next Bobcat drive ended with another opportunity for Yazdani to add three points, but he missed this kick wide left. Bowling Green needed just three plays to cover 79 yards and capped off its quick drive with a James Knapke touchdown pass to Ryan Burbrink to extend its lead to 21-6. The game never seemed close after that point.
Knapke finished the game 20 of 39 for 260 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Falcon running back Travis Greene scored once on the ground and also caught a touchdown pass from Knapke.
The Ohio (3-4, 1-2 MAC) defense kept it close by forcing a total of seven Falcon three & outs, but the offense was never able to capitalize off its defense’s stops. Eight of the Bobcats’ 15 drives crossed midfield, but it seemed that once Ohio got within 40 yards of the end zone, an invisible wall formed that prevented them from getting any further.
“I thought the defense played exceptionally well at times,” Solich said. “That’s frustrating. When you play defense that well, it’s frustrating when big plays are made.”
“We were able to move the ball,” Solich said. “We just didn’t finish drives off and were unable to put points on the board.”
Sprague was 27 of 56 with 325 yards, and Sprague, a sophomore, also led the ‘Cats with 49 rushing yards. Sebastian Smith was Ohio’s top target, reeling in nine catches for 86 yards.
Tim Edmond scored the lone touchdown for the Green & White early in the fourth quarter, his second in the past two games.
Ohio was penalized 16 times for a total of 153 yards, including two personal fouls on one play that led to Bowling Green’s last three points midway through the fourth quarter.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Sprague said. “We can’t do that and expect to win a MAC game, especially against a high-powered offense like Bowling Green.”