BOWLING GREEN - Along the path of first-year head coach Urban Meyer's four-step plan for success, the Bowling Green Falcons are at about the midway point.
At 4-1 overall (2-1 in Mid-American Conference play), they've already won two more games than they did all last season (2-9).
More importantly, however, is that yesterday's 24-7 victory over Kent State at Doyt L. Perry Stadium was conceded as a win but not necessarily judged by Meyer or his Falcons as an acceptable performance.
‘‘I'm proud and I'm excited about 4-1, but it just wasn't a clean game on our end,'' Meyer said. ‘‘I'm very disappointed in the red zone. We took the spread offense and completely dominated possession time, that's tribute to our guys.
‘‘But we need to score. We had receivers open and we stalled at bad times. That score could've been a lot worse.''
After its first drive of the game stalled, BG constructed an efficient 14-play, 63-yard march that concluded with junior quarterback Andy Sahm finding tight end D'Monn Baker for a five-yard touchdown completion with 3:42 left in the first quarter.
Next up, Meyer went to sophomore Josh Harris in his QB rotation and the Falcons didn't miss a beat.
Harris guided an even more impressive seven-play, 52-yard TD drive, which included four keepers totaling 40 yards. Harris capped things with a one-yard sneak that gave BG a 14-0 edge 13:27 before halftime.
‘‘We didn't get off to a very good start, especially on offense,'' Kent coach Dean Pees said. ‘‘The defense was on the field a long time. We had too many turnovers, too many miscues and just got down.''
Following the first of three first-half fumbles by Kent back David Alston, Sahm led another scoring push, this one ending short of the mark with a 25-yard Shaun Suisham field goal 7:33 before the break.
But that's when things started to unravel a bit for the Falcons.
Two more Alston fumbles gave BG possession first on the Kent 36 then the 30. Each time the Falcons came away with nothing.
Meyer liked Bowling Green's start, but its lull left some question marks.
An offense that looked like it could score at will suddenly looked like it was overmatched by the Golden Flash defense. And, on one late second-quarter Kent scoring drive at least, a Falcon defense that was otherwise dominant in this game, showed some vulnerability.
Pinned back on its 9 just 2:08 before halftime, the Flashes (1-4, 0-2) suddenly sliced up the previously unmovable BG defense.
Kent's freshman quarterback Joshua Cribbs picked apart the Falcon secondary with 5-of-6 passing for 91 yards in 88 seconds. Cribbs found Matt Curry from nine yards with 40 seconds left in the half, and suddenly the confident Falcons had doubts.
‘‘There's four steps,'' Meyer said. ‘‘The first stage is teach them how to compete. I think we've taught them how to compete. The second thing is teach them how to win. They surprisingly learned fast how to win down at Missouri. The next thing, and I don't think we've done that yet, is learn how to handle winning. The last thing I'm pushing with this program, the fourth stage, is winning a championship. It's not like we're asking them to climb 12 flights. Just four.''
The lull is why Meyer feels step three is yet to be conquered.
‘‘That drive was upsetting,'' said BG defensive end Ryan Wingrove, ‘‘but we came out in the second half and played the same kind of defense we started out playing.''
The anxiety was settled at the break without need for a tongue-lashing from Meyer.
‘‘The most encouraging thing was that the players weren't pleased,'' Meyer said. ‘‘How you handle situations is dictated by your players. I was ready to explode like I did against Temple. But this locker room was more like, ‘Let's get it done, let's execute.' The players took charge of the halftime. I was pleased to see that.''
Bowling Green's final TD drive of the day was orchestrated in the third quarter by Harris.
After Sahm was intercepted on the Falcons' first second-half possession, Harris moved BG 65 yards in 14 plays, taking 6:59 off the clock. Kurt Gerling was the recipient of a five-yard TD pass from Harris with 9:41 left in the third quarter.
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