ATHENS, Oh -- Despite 513 yards of total offense and a program record of 110 offensive plays (five shy of the NCAA record), the Ohio Bobcats (3-4, 1-2 MAC) struggled to find the end zone and fell on their homecoming day to the Bowling Green Falcons, 31-13.
The Bobcats not only had 42 more plays than the Falcons (5-2, 3-0 MAC), but they also beat Bowling Green in nearly every offensive category. In all, Ohio held the ball for nearly 20 minutes longer than the Falcons and also had more total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, first downs and a better third down conversion percentage.
Nontheless, Ohio found a way to lose to Bowling Green for the third consecutive season. Among the factors were penalties, which certainly didn't help the Bobcats' cause.
By the end of the game, Ohio committed an astounding 16 penalties for 153 yards. A majority of them killed any chance that the ‘Cats had to get the ball into the end zone.
“We’re just shooting ourselves in the foot,” quarterback J.D. Sprague said. “We can’t do that and expect to win a MAC game, especially against a high-powered offense like Bowling Green. We can’t put the ball in the end zone if we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Senior running back and captain Tim Edmond also expressed his frustration about the number of penalties called on his team but realizes it’s something that needs to be fixed before next week’s game.
“I feel like it wasn’t a fair game to be honest with the refs,” running back Tim Edmond said. “For 16 penalties to get a 150, I’ve never heard of that, but at the same time the refs are refs and you just got to play with it and stay poised.”
Another factor in Ohio’s first loss at home was the defense’s inability to stop the Falcons on their first two possessions of the game.
On its first drive, Bowling Green marched 75 yards down the field in less than two minutes and struck first with a 23-yard touchdown screen pass from quarterback James Knapke to running back Travis Greene.
Knapke finished the day 20-of-39 for 260 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, his eighth pick this season. Six of Knapke’s completions went to Roger Lewis, who finished with exactly 100 yards receiving -- the fourth time he has reached at least 100 receiving yards.
Sprague followed up the touchdown by coughing up the football on the Bobcats first play, putting Bowling Green on Ohio’s 32-yard line.
The Falcons wasted no time capitalizing on Sprague’s fumble as Knapke found Greene once again on a screen pass for 15 yards. That set up a two-yard touchdown run by Andre Givens.
Starting out slow has been problematic for Ohio all season long and the early 14-0 deficit marks the third time this year that the ‘Cats have trailed by two touchdowns after the game’s first four possessions.
“We need to work on not giving up freebees coming out of the game,” corner back Ian Wells said.
Two field goals by Ohio and another BG touchdown put the Falcons ahead 21-6 at the half. It was feast or famine for Bowling Green in the first half as the visitors either scored a touchdown or went three-and-out to Ohio’s defense.
The third quarter presented much of the same, with yet another touchdown for Bowling Green on a 30-yard touchdown run by Greene. That put BG up 28-6 with 5:30 left in the quarter.
The touchdown run was the longest of the day for the Falcons and also gave them more yards rushing on a single play than they had in the entire first half.
An early fourth quarter touchdown by Edmond gave the Bobcats a small hope of coming back, but it proved to be Ohio's final score of the day.
Aided by penalties, Bowling Green drove 66 yards for a final tally. Tate nailed a 26-yarder for the final 31-13 score.
Things weren’t all bad for Ohio as it eclipsed 500 yards of total offense for the first time this season and also had a few notable receivers, including Sebastian Smith, who hauled in nine catches for 86 yards. Redshirt sophomore Jordan Reid also had a strong outing with six receptions for 84 yards.
Although Sprague overthrew his fair share of passes, he still finished the game with a career-high 325 yards passing on 56 attempts and also led the team in rushing with 16 carries for 49 yards.
Ohio remains home next Saturday, hoping to snap its two-game losing streak to the Akron Zips (4-2, 2-0 MAC). Bowling Green plays host to Western Michigan (3-3, 1-1) at 2 p.m.