NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Bowling Green Falcons dropped their season opener to the No. 25-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, 59-30, Saturday evening in front of 61,323 fans at Nissan Stadium. A lightning delay, which occurred midway through the third quarter, delayed the ballgame 1:20.
Redshirt-senior Matt Johnson threw for a career-high 424 yards, completing 27-of-49 passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions. Redshirt-junior Gehrig Dieter led all Falcon receivers with career highs in catches (7) and yards (133). Junior Ronnie Moore added 95 yards on five catches, while redshirt-senior Chris Gallon had three receptions for 45 yards. Sophomore Roger Lewis registered two catches for 49 yards.
Junior Fred Coppet led the Bowling Green rushing attack with 63 yards on 12 carries. Redshirt-senior Travis Greene chipped in with 34 yards on nine touches. Redshirt-senior Ryan Burbrink – who also caught four passes for 70 yards – scored the Falcons' lone rushing touchdown.
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Defensively, redshirt-sophomore linebacker Austin Valdez led the way with 13 tackles. Fellow linebacker, senior Trenton Greene, registered 12. In his first game for the Falcons, graduate transfer Eilar Hardy totaled 9 tackles. Sophomore defensive backs Clint Stephens and Ben Hale recorded six apiece, while redshirt-senior defensive lineman Zach Colvin notched the Falcons' lone sack.
The Falcons got off to a fast start, as Johnson found Lewis down the Tennessee sideline on Bowling Green's opening drive for 45 yards down to the Vols' 24-yard line on third down. BGSU eventually settled for a 40-yardTyler Tate field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
Tennessee would go on to score the next 21 points, but the Falcons punched right back, scoring 17 straight points of their own to trim Tennessee's lead to a single point at 21-20.
Gallon got the Falcons' first touchdown drive of the season going, with back-to-back receptions totaling 38 yards. Johnson later kept the ball on a zone read on 4th-and-one and picked up 20 yards to move the ball inside the Tennessee ten-yard line. Redshirt-sophomore Hunter Folkertsma capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown catch – the first touchdown of his career.
Bowling Green then forced a stop, and another gutsy fourth-down call led to another Falcon touchdown. At their own 13-yard line, Greene found a hole and rushed for 18 yards to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, the Falcons were celebrating in the end zone. Johnson found Dieter for 31 yards before the pair connected again for a 38-yard touchdown. On both plays, Dieter beat his man down the Tennessee sideline. On the touchdown catch, the Vols' defensive back was even flagged for pass interference.
The Falcons turned another stop into three more points as Tate connected from 37 yards out before Tennessee scored two consecutive touchdowns to take a 35-20 lead into halftime.
Out of the break, both teams came out firing. Bowling Green forced a quick stop, and then a pair of big plays set up a touchdown. Johnson found Moore for 23 yards. A Coppet 31-yard rush then got the Falcons down to the Vols' seven-yard line prior to a Burbrink rushing touchdown that cut the deceit to a single score. However, Tennessee returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards, and on the first play from scrimmage, Josh Dobbs – who completed 15-of-22 passes for 205 yards – connected with Ethan Wolf for an 18-yard score, stretching the lead back to 15 at 42-27.
After a lightning delay, the Falcons continued to chip away, as Tate nailed his third field goal of the game to pull BGSU within 12 at 42-30. A Tate field goal was good from 25 yards out. However, the Falcons could not draw any closer, and Tennessee closed out the contest by scoring the game's final 17 points to secure the win.
Bowling Green will travel to College Park, Md. next Saturday (Sept. 12) to take on the University of Maryland Terrapins. Kickoff is schedule for noon.
(Courtesy of BGSU Athletics)