Scott Loeffler's early years as head coach have been marked by a rebuild from the ground up - largely piling up freshman talent and putting them under fire early. After three wins in 2019 and an 0-5 record in 2020, BGSU posted four victories last season. One of them was a big 14-10 win at Minnesota. The Falcons owned two MAC victories, and they closed the campaign with a 21-10 home field triumph over Ohio.
Those kind of defensive performances would go a long way in helping the Falcons post more wins this time around. However, on the year BGSU finished ninth among MAC teams in scoring defense.
Offensively, with the return of quarterback Matt McDonald behind a now more-experienced line and some serious talent to round out the unit, Bowling Green's attack should be more productive.
MAC media members picked the Falcons to finished fifth in the East, but BGSU had one first place vote and overall was just seven points behind third place Buffalo.
"Veteran" is an understatement for Matt McDonald, who is entering a sixth year of quarterbacking at the FBS level. He came over to Bowling Green along with Boston College current Falcons coach Scott Loeffler, so he really, really knows the systems. McDonald can be expected to keep slinging the ball. He tied for first among MAC passers last year with 260 attempts, but his 56.5 percent completion percentage and pass efficiency ratings were last.
McDonald tossed 10 TDs while throwing five interceptions and averaged 208.6 passing yards per game. Both wideouts (junior Tyrone Broden) and senior Austin Osborne) return, along with senior tight end Christian Sims. With three linemen returning, the Falcons can field eight returning starters on offense.
Although BGSU ranked 10th (MAC) in rushing yards, the potential is there to move up that list if the line gels and sophomore running back Terion Stewart can stay healthy. He broke some huge plays last year and is tough to bring down once he reaches the secondary.
"We've finally got enough skill around (our quarterback) that we don't need to get greedy," said Loeffler, who thinks McDonald can thrive with better protection and a chance to play within the system.
Senior ends Karl Brooks (Third Team All-MAC) and Walter Haire anchor the defensive line, with the former recording 7.5 sacks last season. Senior Darren Anders, meanwhile, tops a solid linebacking unit. He led the conference last year with 124 tackles. Horne added 89 stops of his own.
Bowling Green's secondary allowed a MAC-best 186.3 ypg through the air in 2021 and was second in passing defense efficiency. Senior CB Devon Ferguson and FS Jordan Anderson are returnIng starters on the back end. Ferguson, who played eight games, averaged 8.5 tackles per game (7th among MAC defenders). BGSU's 12 interceptions on the campaign were third among MAC teams.
Kicker Nate Needham is gone after converting a stellar 19 of 20 field goal attempts, including a long of 52. Kickoff specialist Mason Lawler will likely move into a larger role, while freshman Sami Sir figures at punter.
>> The Falcons were 11th in penalty yardage last year (71.5 ypg). They were also 115th in red zone defense and 10th in red zone offense.
>> Despite a 36-11 disadvantage in first downs, BGSU posted a 56-44 win over Buffalo last year. Christian Sim's 81 yard reception, a 64-yard TD catch by Tyrone Broden, Terion Stewart's 77-yard run and Matt McDonald's 47-yard scamper accounted for much of the Falcon's 484 yards on offense. Buffalo held the ball for 38:14, but Bowling Green capitalized on two turnovers and pulled off enough big plays to earn the victory.
>> BGSU opens 2022 at UCLA. It hosts Eastern Kentucky and Marshall before wrapping up non-conference play at Mississippi State. The conference opener -- at Akron follows. Bowling Green squares off with rival Toledo Nov. 15 in the Glass Bowl. UT prevailed 49-17 in last year's Battle of I-75.
>> The Bowling Green football program recently added Rutgers transfer Tunde Fatukasi, The offensive tackle, spent two seasons at Rutgers. He will have four years of eligibility with the Falcons. Fatukasi is the younger brother of Folorunso Fatukasi, who is a defensive lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Cracking the .500 mark overall is likely on the BGSU radar, and Loeffler's squad has already proven that on a given week it can be very dangerous. With the experience factor turning in Bowling Green's favor, Bowling Green could be moving up the MAC East ladder. Just how far remains to be seen.
"We were the youngest team in the country last year and we've finally learned ... that every details matters," Loeffler said on MAC Media Day. "We feel great (and) I think we had the best offseason we've ever had."