By EVAN MEYER
AKRON, OHIO – Since the beginning of the 2012 season, the Bowling Green Falcons have dominated teams fellow members of the Mid-American Conference East Division. That dominance continued Tuesday night as BGSU defeated the Akron Zips, 27-10, at InfoCision Stadium.
The victory was Bowling Green’s 15th in the last 16 games against the East. With it, the Falcons (6-3, 4-1 MAC) put a stranglehold on the division with just three games remaining in the regular season.
“I am really proud of our young men to play game in conditions like this. Old school three yards and a cloud of dust and do things the old fashioned way. It was really fun to watch,” first year BGSU head coach Dino Babers said.
Akron (4-5, 2-3 MAC) suffered its third consecutive loss as it turned the ball over five times. The Zips have been outscored 56-10 since squandering a 21-6 lead at Ball State back on October 25.
On a cold, windy, rainy night, scoring and ball possession would be at a premium.
On the first possession of the game, the Falcons lost star running back Travis Greene, who left the field rather gingerly with a lower body injury and did not return. Sophomore Fred Coppet replaced Greene and rushed for a career-best 113 yards. His effort was part of an evening that saw BGSU gain 219 yards on the ground.
The home team had a chance to draw first blood. However Akron junior PK Robert Stein missed a 52-yard field goal that was wide left -- even with a 20 mile an hour wind at his back. It would be the first of two misses on the evening for Stein, who came into the game a perfect seven-for-seven on three pointers.
After the miss,Bowling Green scored the game’s first points as sophomore QB James Knapke guided the offense 54 yards to the UA 12 before the drive stalled. Junior PK Tyler Tate came on and made a 30-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Late in the first quarter, junior QB Kyle Pohl and the Zips offense moved the ball from their own 43-yard line down to the BGSU 23. Stein came on and made a 40 yard field goal, this one into the wind, to tie the score 3-3 on the first play of the second stanza.
Akron’s defense, led by senior LB Jatavius Brown, who had a career best 16 total tackles (nine solo) and two forced fumbles on the night, forced BGSU into a three-and-out.
A short punt gave Pohl and the UA offense the ball on their own 43. The drive reached the Falcons 17 when on second down, Pohl had a miscommunication with one of his receivers. He threw the ball into the end zone, where it was intercepted by DB Nick Johnson. It was one of two picks the redshirt freshman would have on the evening.
Knapke and the Falcons regained their lead after the interception. They moved 53 yards in nine plays, reaching the UA 27 before the defense stiffened. Tate came on and made his second field goal, a 45-yarder, for a 6-3 lead at halftime.
When play resumed, Bowling Green kicked its offense into gear.
After an exchange of punts, UA gained possession on its own nine-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Pohl mishandled the snap forcing the ball into the end zone where it was recovered by NG Taylor Royster for a touchdown and a 13-3 lead. It was the first of two fumble recoveries for the junior.
On the possession after the touchdown, Pohl was intercepted for a second time by Johnson, who added nine total tackles and three pass breakups along with his pair of picks.
When asked about the performance of the defense, Babers said “Whenever you can win the turnover battle, it is huge. With the weather conditions like this tonight, you should have a chance to win.”
From his own 29, Knaple engineered an 11-play 62-yard drive which ended on a 10-yard pass. Freshman WR Roger Lewis made a sliding catch in the end zone to increase BGSU’s lead to 20-3. Knapke, who became the starter when Matt Johnson was lost for the season in the opener at Western Kentucky completed 17-of-34 passes for 170 yards and the score to Lewis, who had four receptions on the night for 36 yards.
Despite the two turnovers that resulted in scores, UA was still in the game. The Zips had a chance to cut into the lead late in the period, driving from their own 25 to the Falcons 23. However, Stein’s 40-yard field goal attempt was partially blocked and fell well short.
Early in the fourth quarter, UA did score a touchdown. Using the right arm of Pohl, who ended the game with career marks in pass attempts (62) and completions (31) for 304 yards in his first game after missing the previous two with an upper body injury. The drive ended with senior RB Jawon Chisholm rushing around the left side and into the end zone to make the score 20-10.
After holding the Falcons to a three-and-out, the Zips got the ball back with 6:24 remaining. However, Pohl threw his third interception of the game, this one to freshman DB Clinto Stephens at the BGSU 14, ending any hopes of a comeback.
The Falcons sealed the game when Givens, who rushed for 101 yards on the evening, busted through the middle for a 46-yards and a touchdown. That wrapped up the Falcons their seventh consecutive win over the Zips and a bowl eligible ticket.
Surprisingly, the game was somewhat even statistically. UA outgained BGSU, 398-389. However, the four turnovers, resulting in 24 Falcon points, proved to be the Zips undoing.
“I am not about to let these guys somehow tell themselves that the world is coming to an end. We will continue to fight and make something out of this season,” Bowden said.
Bowling Green returns home to play Kent State next Wednesday night while UA travels up to Buffalo on Tuesday to battle the Bulls.