MT. PLEASANT, Mich. - There is a reason why they call them “special teams.” They intend for them to do special things.
Bowling Green blocked two Central Michigan punts and turned both into points yesterday on its way to a hard-fought 45-35 win over the Chippewas. Quarterback Josh Harris rushed for three touchdowns and took control of the game down the stretch, but with all other things being relatively equal, the special-teams play was the difference in this Mid-American Conference game.
“That won the game for us,” BG coach Urban Meyer said. “We are a punt-block team, and we put a lot of emphasis on that. I like to have our best players on special teams, but right now some of those guys are hurt, so we had four or five guys out there who haven't played on that before, and they were outstanding.”
Running back B.J. Lane and receiver Cornelius McGrady blocked the punts - two players who are backups at their principal positions but were very valuable on special teams yesterday. Injuries have forced them into roles on special teams.
“We had a lot of guys get thrown into the mix,” Harris said, “and today was an example of how quickly you can go from sitting on the bench to playing an important role in the game.”
“If we look at those two plays,” Central Michigan coach Mike DeBord said, “that was the difference in the game.”
After holding BG (5-0, 2-0 MAC) on the opening series of the game, Central Michigan plodded down the field for the game's first score. The Chips (3-3, 1-1) got the ball at midfield after a 29-yard punt by Pat Fleming, and took 11 plays before tailback Terrence Jackson pushed in from the 1, and the extra point gave CMU a 7-0 lead with 9:32 left in the first period.
A couple of series later, the Falcons got the offense moving as Harris ran for 13, passed to James Hawkins for seven, and P.J. Pope burst up the middle for 18 more. A 15-yard reception by Robert Redd moved BG to the CMU 15, and three plays later Pope raced around right end and leaped in for the score. With Shawn Suisham's kick the game was tied 7-7.
On the final play of the first period, the Falcons swarmed in on Central Michigan punter Brian Brandt and Lane, a redshirt freshman, surged up the middle and batted the ball toward the end zone and the BG sideline. Marcus Allen came out of a scrum with the ball for the TD and a 14-7 BG lead.
Harris scored on a one-yard run with three minutes left in the half to make it 21-7, and Harris hit Redd on a 22-yard scoring pass with 33 seconds left to make it 28-7 at the half.
After McGrady's blocked punt set up a 36-yard Suisham field goal that stretched BG's lead to 31-7 with 11 minutes left in the third period, it was clear that Central was going to be forced out of its comfort zone - running the ball. But the Chippewas suddenly found success with the mix of run and pass.
Central Michigan put up two touchdowns before the quarter ended, and it was a game again. BG's lead was cut to 31-21.
Then Harris took over. The Falcons ran the ball on 13 straight plays, and Harris converted a couple of big third downs before going in for the score from two yards out to give BG a 38-21 advantage.
Central cut it to 38-28 with just under five minutes left in the game, but Harris hammered away at the Chippewas, carrying five times on a seven-play drive. He finished CMU off with a 23-yard run around end for BG's final score of the game.