BOWLING GREEN - The Las Vegas oddsmakers are supposed to be the geniuses of sports. The house is always right, and the house always wins.
Saturday night's 51-28 Bowling Green win over Missouri told us a lot of things - including that the guys formulating the point spreads need to get out more on weekends. They only missed this one by 27 points - because if Missouri hadn't added a meaningless late touchdown, then they would have missed it by 34.
The spread fluctuated, but the Tigers were always the favorite, by as many as seven points to as few as four. Even on the road, facing a BG team picked by many to win the Mid-American Conference's West Division, Missouri was the oddsmakers' clear-cut choice to win this game. They missed it by a mile, which is about three times the distance the Falcons rolled up in offense (577 yards).
“I think we were ready for every situation, and that was the difference,” said BG senior wide receiver Robert Redd, who had 10 catches for 209 yards and a touchdown. “We were playing a good Big 12 team, so we needed to be at our best. We had a plan, and we followed it. The plays we ran worked.”
The plan was to spread Missouri out, confuse, perplex and bewilder the Tigers, and do it frequently from a no-huddle offense. Bowling Green's first six possessions went for 80, 63, 70, 56, 69 and 65 yards - and all of them ended up producing points.
“They came out and mixed up a lot of things,” Missouri defensive tackle Keith Wright said. “When the run wasn't working for them, they aired it out. And when they aired it out, they had a lot of success.”
BG junior quarterback Josh Harris passed for 311 yards, rushed for another 66 and scored three touchdowns - one coming on a 34-yard reception when he took a pass back from wide receiver Cole Magner after first tossing the ball to Magner.
“The throw-back pass to Josh that we scored on, and the option pass - we worked on that all week and the coaches kept telling us that we were going to score on these plays - and we scored on those plays,” senior running back Joe Alls said. “A lot of people didn't think we would win this game, but the players and coaches on this team thought we would.”
The 577 yards BG (2-0) cranked out were the most a Gary Pinkel-coached Missouri team has allowed, and the Tigers have faced Texas, Nebraska and Michigan State under Pinkel, the former coach at Toledo. Magner, a quarterback in high school, threw two passes against Missouri, both for touchdowns.
“They were having a lot of success with everything they were doing,” Missouri wide receiver Justin Gage said. “Just seeing all of that, from an offensive standpoint, you kind of enjoy it. But when it's going against your team, you hate it.”
Harris, who worked most of the night out of the shotgun, and went 16-of-31, said BG's offensive exploits provided the outcome he expected they would.
“It was no surprise,” Harris said. “I feel like they were guessing, which gave us the opportunity to open up the playbook as wide as we wanted to and just flip through the pages and call what we wanted to call.”
All of the fireworks and skullduggery when BG had the ball overshadowed a brilliant defensive performance that limited Missouri (2-1) to just 55 yards rushing on 30 attempts. Mizzou's talented quarterback, Brad Smith, came into the game with a 121.5-yard rushing average, tops in the country among freshmen, but he was held to 14.
Missouri's Pinkel, who beat Bowling Green 51-17 in his final game as head coach at Toledo two years ago, lost his first game as head coach of the Tigers to BG last year in Columbia. Pinkel would have no part of the theory that his team, with Oklahoma and Nebraska coming up back-to-back in two weeks, was not as serious as it should have been about facing the Falcons.
“I would never devalue their win,” Pinkel said. “That would be easy to say that we took them lightly, and then walk away from here.
“If I thought we did, I'd tell you. But no, they just did a great job. They made big play after big play. They kept making them.”