BOWLING GREEN - The Bowling Green State University football team fell behind 14-3 early but shutout Akron over the final three quarters for a 31-14 victory on Saturday (Sept. 28) afternoon at Doyt L. Perry Stadium in Bowling Green, Ohio.
The crowd of 13,262 at today's game was restless early, as the Falcons struggled out of the gate. Bowling Green punted after just three plays on their opening drive, and Akron used the opportunity to take the lead. After a controversial pass interference call on Cameron Truss on Akron's third play from scrimmage, the Zips' Kyle Pohl threw deep down the right sideline to a wide open L.T. Smith. Smith raced into the end zone for a 51-yard score and an early 7-0 Akron lead.
It appeared that the Falcons would answer emphatically on their next possession. Travis Greene ran for 14 and 32 yards on consecutive carries, then two Matt Johnson passes gave BGSU a first down at the Zips' 12. The drive stalled there, and Tyler Tate kicked a 29-yard field goal to close the gap to 7-3.
Akron answered right back, however, with a little assistance from BGSU. They reached the Falcon 25 but were faced with a 3rd-and-5. Pohl's pass was incomplete, but Gabe Martin was called for holding and negated the play. Four plays later, Pohl ran a keeper to the left for a three-yard touchdown and a 14-3 Akron lead.
The two teams exchanged punts on the next six possessions until 4:53 remained in the first half. It was on that final punt, by Akron, when the game turned once and for all. Akron had driven to the Bowling Green 36 and faced a 4th-and-10. Pohl came out as if Akron was going to go for it, but (after a BGSU timeout) the quarterback attempted a pooch punt. The punt went directly to the right and out of bounds, traveling just one yard upfield to give the Falcons a first down at their own 35.
From that point, Bowling Green scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions. For the first score, the team drove 65 yards in ten plays. The possession was capped when Johnson completed a pass over the middle to Shaun Joplin. Joplin juggled the ball but eventually coralled it and ran into the end zone for a 22-yard score. Akron ran out the final 1:41 in the first half to take a 14-10 lead to the locker room.
The Zips punted after just three plays to start the second half, and Bowling Green was right back in the end zone 11 plays later. In a 69-yard drive that took 6:20 off the game clock, a superb mix of Greene runs and Johnson passes steadily moved the ball to the Akron 2-yard line. William Houston then came in and added the two-yard touchdown run to his arsenal and gave BGSU a 17-14 lead.
Akron actually managed a first down on the ensuing drive but then had to punt again after just four plays. A very short 22-yard punt allowed Bowling Green to take over at their own 40, and it took the team just six plays to navigate the 60 yards to the Akron end zone. On 2nd-and-10 from the Akron 30, Johnson went back to pass and immediately had to scramble. He whirled around and somehow saw Greene. Johnson found enough momentum to shovel Greene the ball, and Greene weaved his way through the defense for a 30-yard touchdown. When the third quarter ended, the Falcons led 24-14.
The Zips finally put together a drive and threatened to close the gap again. However, on 3rd-and-goal from the 1, Pohl's pass to Anthony Ritossa was knocked down by Gabe Martin. Robert Stein's 17-yard field goal attempt then clanked off the left upright, and BGSU was able to keep their ten-point margin.
The Falcons closed out the scoring after a 13-play, 80-yard drive that sapped eight minutes out of the fourth quarter. Andre Givens had a highlight-reel 18-yard run that went from sideline to sideline, but Greene saw nine carries on the drive for 37 yards. That included the final 11, when Greene ran right up the middle for the game's final score and the ultimate 31-14 victory.
Bowling Green was outgained 134-66 in the first quarter but reversed that to 330-162 over the final three quarters. Overall, BGSU had a 396-296 edge in yards. They also dominated time of possession (again) by a 36:03-23:57 margin. The Falcons were also 9-for-14 on third downs and 4-for-5 in the red zone, while allowing Akron to go just 6-for-13 and 1-for-2 in the same situations.
It should also be emphasized that BGSU's only red zone "failure" was on the final drive of the game, when the team intentionally ran out the clock. Bowling Green is now 22-for-26 in the red zone this season; opponents are only 8-for-17.
Johnson had another outstanding passing day for Bowling Green. He completed 18 out of 24 passes for 229 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Also, while he was sacked six times in the first half, he did not suffer a single sack during the game's final 30 minutes. Joplin was Johnson's favorite target, as he caught five passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. Greene caught four balls, including a touchdown, and accounted for 71 yards. Ryan Burbrink, Chris Gallon and Alex Bayer each had three receptions.
Greene was the game's leading rusher with 142 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Greene's game total, in 28 touches, was 213 yards and two scores. He led BGSU to a 167-97 edge in rushing yards.
On defense, Aaron Foster led the way with ten tackles, including one of the team's three tackles for loss.
For Akron, Kyle Pohl had 37 passing attempts and completed 22 of those for 199 yards and a touchdown. He also had a rushing touchdown and 26 yards on six carries. He was just two yards shy of Akron's leading rusher, Jawon Chisholm, who had only nine carries and 28 yards.
L.T. Smith led Zips' receivers with five catches, 89 yards and a touchdown. Jerrod Dillard also had five catches for 50 yards.
Akron's defense had two players with nine tackles and two others with eight. They had six sacks and seven total tackles for loss. The Zips also had two forced fumbles but could not recover either. C.J. James (3), Albert Presley (2) and Nico Caponi (1) had the sacks for Akron.
Akron's loss drops their record to 1-4 overall and 0-1 in the Mid-American Conference. They host the Ohio Bobcats next weekend.
Bowling Green's victory gives the Falcons a 4-1 record overall and a 2-0 mark in the MAC. Their next game is next Saturday (Oct. 5) at home against Massachusetts. The game is BGSU's Homecoming, and game time is 3:30 p.m.