BOWLING GREEN - There are no moral victories on Urban Meyer's football field, and the first-year coach at Bowling Green State University is not the kind of guy to put much solace in spirited performances that end up short of victory.
But there were some positives to be found in BG's first defeat of the season as the Falcons pushed Marshall to the limit Saturday in Huntington before dropping a 37-31 decision.
Bowling Green (3-1) stunned the Herd with a defensive touchdown just before the half that gave the Falcons a 24-20 edge, then scored on the first possession of the second half for a 31-20 lead. BG still led 31-29 with three minutes to play before Marshall, the four-time defending champion in the Mid-American Conference, got the winning touchdown.
“This was a devastating loss for us,” Meyer said. “The team was completely devastated, and I was glad to see that they were devastated - because if they weren't devastated, then we would have some issues to deal with.”
If there were questions in anyone's mind about how good the Falcons might be after they had opened with wins over Missouri, Buffalo and Temple, they likely answered those by showing they could not only play with Marshall in a very difficult environment, but also had the horses to beat the Thundering Herd.
Against Marshall, Bowling Green got a record-setting performance from wide receiver Robert Redd, who set the single-game mark with 215 yards and a couple of touchdowns on nine receptions. Quarterback Andy Sahm threw for 264 yards - the second-best day in his career. Running back Joe Alls had 107 yards against the Herd, and nose tackle Brandon Hicks had a career-high three sacks.
“We played extremely hard, and sure there were a number of individuals on this team who thought we'd win this game - but not all of them did,” Meyer said. “With Marshall, I saw a team that is very talented, playing in a great environment, and I think if you asked the Marshall players - those kids honestly believed all night long that they were going to come back and win. That is not by accident that Marshall won that game.
“I've been preaching since I first was hired here that I hear this talk about teams like Marshall and Florida State having all of this great talent and that's why they win - but I don't believe that. Sure, they've got great players, but they go into every game thinking they're going to win. The difference between winning and losing is such a fragile thing, so that frame of mind is very important.”
Meyer said his biggest concern following the Marshall game is that the Bowling Green defense did not play as effectively as he expected, giving up 421 yards of offense, 327 of that coming through the air. The Falcons were able to swap scores with Marshall almost all night, until BG's final possession ended with an interception at the Herd 3.
“We're just not good enough to get into shootouts with people,” he said. “After a thorough evaluation of the film, I didn't see a lack of effort on our part. It came down to a lack of execution at critical times of the game. We failed to execute and they did execute at the end, and that's something we need to go back and work on.”
As he prepares BG for a home game this week against Kent State, Meyer repeated a concern about the Falcons' lack of depth.
“I think we do have some excellent players, but not enough of them, and I think that was exposed Saturday night,” he said. “We've got defensive linemen playing too many snaps, and on our offensive line if we lose another guy, then we're down to guys who just aren't ready to play at this level. This is a program we have to build up. Right now you watch Toledo play, you watch Western Michigan and Marshall and you see depth, but we don't have that right now.”