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The Falcons are on a roll. They have two straight MAC East titles to their credit as they head into 2015. With a wealth of talent returning, they will be favored by many to make it three straight.
Bowling Green finished 8-6 overall and 5-3 MAC. The Falcons went 0-4 against MAC West competition, falling to Western Michigan, Toledo, Ball State and Northern Illinois (MAC Championship game).
With the return of Matt Johnson, who was injured in last year’s opener, the Falcons have a huge quarterback battle brewing as they head into fall camp. James Knapke stepped in for Johnson and filled in admirably. He was the Camellia Bowl MVP and led BG to eight victories. Overall, he completed 280 of 483 (58%) with 15 TDs and 12 interceptions.
Facing the Falcons offense was a challenge last year. Bowling Green was fourth in both rushing and passing offense. It left them fifth in total offense (432.9 ypg) and also scoring (30.0 ppg).
Lest anyone forget, Matt Johnson threw for a career-high 393 yards and five TDs against Northern Illinois in the 2013 MAC Championship game. He totaled 237 completions for 3,467 yards (64.2%) with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions in that breakout season.
Then-sophomore Roger Lewis led Falcon receivers in receptions (73), yards (1,093) and touchdowns (7). Ryan Burbrink (Sr) and Ronnie Moore (Jr) will also be back. They combined for 120 receptions, 1,448 yards with 10 touchdowns in 2014.
Running backs Travis Green and Fred Coppet return this year after combining for 1,770 yards and 18 TDs in 2014. Together, they averaged 137.9 ypg, and each had a long run of at least 69 yards.
The Falcons were next-to-last in penalty yardage, averaging 62.7 ypg. Only Akron (72.5 ypg) had a higher average.
BG was plus-10 in turnovers, good enough for third among MAC teams (on per game average). The Falcons gained 17 fumbles and 16 interceptions while committing 10 fumbles and throwing 13 picks.
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Defense was a sore spot for BG at times. It showed up early (59 points by Western Kentucky) and late (41 points to Ball State in the regular season finale). Then there was that MAC title game, a 51-17 demolishing by Northern Illinois! The Falcons were 12th in scoring defense, passing defense and total defense. Rushing defense was just one mark better.
With quick strike capabilities and a defense that struggled at times, Bowling Green came in last in time of possession (26:12 mpg).
Not only did the 2014 BG defense have its struggles, the top five tacklers from that unit are gone. That’s 452 stops! The departed include Nick Johnson, whose five interceptions was eclipsed only by MAC Defensive MVP of the Year Quinten Rollins (7 INTs with Miami U. in 2014, but now with the Green Bay Packers). BG sacks leader Bryan Thomas (8.0) is also gone. Linebacker James Sanford recorded the most tackles among those returning. He had 71 stops with four TFL and 2.5 sacks.
Kicker Tyler Tate is back for his senior campaign after finishing second among MAC kickers in field goal percentage (23 of 29, 79.3%). Despite his freshman status, Joe Davidson finished third among MAC punters with a 42.6 average on school records for punting attempts (82) and yardage (3,497).