AKRON - What do a quarterback who played his high school football closer to Russia than Ohio, a defensive end who wants to be a film maker, and a rare pair of two-point plays have in common?
They all figured prominently in Bowling Green State University's 16-11 win last night over Akron.
Cole Magner, a freshman from Palmer, Alaska, scored a 38-yard touchdown and was the Falcons' leading rusher in the game with 86 yards. Chris Glantzis, the senior defender and film major, had three tackles in the backfield and played a key role in numerous defensive stands the Falcons had to make to win this critical Mid-American Conference game. Both teams scored a safety, accounting for the two-pointers.
“We felt Cole could really provide a spark,” said Bowling Green coach Urban Meyer, who put Magner in at quarterback midway through the second quarter. “We felt the best way to be successful was to either throw the ball, or find some seams and run it. At the time, I think it was a must to put Cole in there.”
The Zips (2-5, 2-2) were leading 6-0 in the first quarter on a pair of field goals by Zac Derr after driving deep into BG territory on their first two possessions. Derr hit from 38 and 32 yards out. He added a 26-yarder in the second quarter for a 9-0 lead.
BG (5-2, 3-1), unable to move the ball behind starting quarterback Andy Sahm who had practiced just one day the past week due to a sore hip, took a calculated gamble and put Magner in the game. A 20-yard burst by Joe Alls got BG to the Akron 40, and after Magner carried for two yards, he took the snap in the shotgun, accelerated through a hole in the right side, and scooted in for the touchdown.
Sean Suisham's extra point kick cut the Akron lead to 9-7 with six minutes left in the half. The Zips went for a home run from their 22 a short time later, and Janssen Patton's fourth interception of the season gave the Falcons the ball back and the half ended with Akron on top by two.
Bowling Green put together a 13-play drive midway through the third quarter but could not convert a first-and-goal from the 2 as Sahm was stopped from the 1 on fourth down. The Falcons turned the ball over on downs, but when Brandon Hicks dropped Junior McCray in the end zone three plays later for a safety, the game was tied 9-9 with just under five minutes left in the third period.
Akron drove to the BG 32 early in the final period, but Sergio Lund intercepted a tipped pass and halted the threat. After an exchange of punts the Falcons took over at their 42 and drove for the winning score, boosted by a 31-yard reception by Robert Redd and a 16-yarder by David Bautista that was good for a first down at the 15.
Sahm hit Redd on a five-yard scoring pass for a 16-9 BG lead with 5:42 to play. The Zips came back and drove to BG's 11 but were stopped short and the Falcons took over at the 2. Sahm was called for intentional grounding from his own end zone, giving the Zips a safety, cutting the lead to 16-11, and giving Akron the ball back with 2:20 left.
The Falcon defense stopped four successive passing plays, preserving the win.
“We did ask too much of our defense tonight,” Meyer said, “but you develop trust and relationships with your players and coaches. There's a lot of risk in putting so much trust in your guys, but what an effort, what an effort.”
Glantzis said the burden to hang on to the win fell on the seven BG seniors on the defensive side of the ball.
“In the past a lot of our problems have been in the fourth quarter, but coach Meyer always puts it on us seniors to get the job done,” Glantzis said. “This time it came down to the fourth quarter, and we got the job done.”
FROM THE ARCTIC: When BG freshman Cole Magner scored a touchdown with 6:04 left in the first half at Akron last night, it was the first TD in Mid-American Conference history scored by a native of Alaska - as far as anyone knows. Nobody could remember anyone from Alaska even playing in the MAC.
Magner entered the game at quarterback with eight minutes left in the first half after starter Andy Sahm had been unable to move the offense. Magner, listed as a wide receiver and third-string quarterback in the BG depth chart, handed off to Joe Alls on his first play behind center, had a couple of short carries wrapped around a nice 20-yard burst by Alls, then hit paydirt.
On second-and-eight from the Akron 38, Magner took the shotgun snap, shot through a hole on the right side and raced to the 10 where he wiggled out of the grasp of a defender and went in standing up for a touchdown. BG closed to within 9-7 of the Zips when Sean Suisham added the extra point.
“It was pretty simple,” Magner said. “I saw a hole you could drive a truck through and I just went for the end zone. I had been preparing all week, so it wasn't much problem when I got the call to go in there.”
Magner took a rather peculiar route to end up at Bowling Green, as you night expect. After starring at Colony High School in Palmer, Alaska, Magner was the state player of the year as a quarterback and free safety, and was also a first-team all-state punt returner playing for his father, Randy.
BG offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon saw Magner at a football camp at Colorado where Brandon was an assistant coach and passing game coordinator for the past two years.
Magner, who had 17 rushing touchdowns and seven more passing as a senior, moved into the No. 3 quarterback position when David Azzi left the team before the start of the season.
With No. 2 quarterback Josh Harris nursing a sprained ankle he suffered last week at Western Michigan, Magner was suddenly the backup.
GERLING STREAK: BG senior wide receiver Kurt Gerling caught a 12-yard pass from Andy Sahm early in the second quarter to extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one reception to 35. Gerling, who has caught a pass in every game he has played at BG, is the current active career receiving leader in the MAC. Gerling has 1,974 receiving yards.
TOUGH RUSH: BG entered the game with the MAC's top defense against the run, and the fifth best rushing defense in the nation after holding its opponents to just 59 yards on the ground per game. Akron rushed for 67 yards in the first half but only 18 in the second half.