BOWLING GREEN - The Bowling Green State University Falcons moved to 7-0 on the season with a 38-20 Mid-American Conference victory over Ball State last night. The Falcons were able to get past some uncharacteristic mistakes and a less-than-full-speed Josh Harris to claim their 10th consecutive win over two seasons and improve to 4-0 in the MAC.
Bowling Green converted three of four Ball State turnovers into touchdowns, and weathered four turnovers of its own after making just six all season before last night. The Falcons kept quarterback Harris, who came into the game leading the nation in scoring, pretty much under wraps to protect a bruised knee he had suffered in a win over Western Michigan last week. He ran the ball just three times for 24 yards, all on scrambles out of the pocket.
“You always want to enjoy a win because you know how difficult it is,” BG head coach Urban Meyer said. “I've been doing this for 18 years and been lucky to be a part of two teams that were 7-0, so you want to recognize that and celebrate that. But what we saw for the first time in a long time was some very un-Bowling Green-style football. I was hoping for something a little more clean today.”
After an earlier Harris interception near the goal line, Harris hit tight end D'Monn Baker with a seven-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter. The first of five extra-point kicks by Shaun Suisham gave BG a 7-3 edge.
Playing before a crowd of 21,039, the 24th-ranked Falcons added another score on a six-yard carry by P.J. Pope early in the second quarter for a 14-3 lead. BG then made it 21-3 before the half ended on a nine-yard run by Pope that completed a possession started by an interception by linebacker Marcus Allen, who tipped the ball, took it out of the air and raced 25 yards to near midfield.
“Coach Meyer always tells us that you've got to shine when your button is pushed,” Allen said, “so we just wanted to come back on defense and make big plays and get the ball back.”
After an exchange of field goals, Ball State cut the lead to 24-13 with a quick scoring drive, highlighted by a 51-yard run by tailback Marcus Merriweather. The Cardinals then held BG and forced a punt, but Falcon long-snapper Joe Gutierrez recovered a fumble on the return that was forced by Keon Newson, and Bowling Green quickly drove 40 yards in three plays to make it 31-13, the TD coming on a 25-yard Harris pass to Charles Sharon.
The Falcons stopped a Ball State drive early in the fourth quarter with an interception in the end zone by Jason Morton, but B.J. Lane fumbled the ball right back on first down and Ball State moved in for a score that made it 31-20 with nine minutes left in the game.
In the final three minutes Bowling Green drove to the Ball State 26, where Harris was picked off for a second time, but two plays later BG got the ball right back when Allen forced a fumble with a big hit on wide receiver Larry Bostic. Alex Glantzis recovered at the 14, and three straight runs by Cole Magner, filling in for Harris, produced the final TD.
“I think this game shows you the value of a Josh Harris who is 100 percent,” Meyer said. “He was probably 60 or 70 percent, so we didn't run him, but we were dead in the water a little bit without that. That's why at the end of the game we went with Cole Magner, because we didn't want Josh to get banged up.”
Joe Alls, who returned to the lineup after missing the past two weeks with a separated shoulder, had 109 yards in 20 carries for the seventh 100-yard game of his career.