NORMAN, Okla. - Bowling Green State University may have lost a football game yesterday, but they found something much more valuable: a quarterback.
The Falcons dropped a 40-24 decision to Oklahoma, the No. 2-ranked team in the country.
But redshirt sophomore Omar Jacobs handled plenty of pressure. He made his first-ever college start against one of the toughest defenses in the country, in front of a loud crowd of 84,319 at Memorial Stadium, not to mention a national television audience. What's more, Jacobs could have buckled under the burden of trying to replace now-graduated quarterback Josh Harris.
Jacobs didn't. Instead he completed 24 of 41 passes for 218 yards and a pair of touchdowns to wide receiver Charles Sharon. And, Jacobs wasn't sacked or intercepted in leading the Falcons to 24 points, a total topped by only three of the Sooners' 14 opponents last season.
"I really thought Omar rose to the occasion," said BG coach Gregg Brandon. "He played against a great defense in a national spotlight. We had our chances, and I'm proud of our team."
Oklahoma jumped out to a quick lead by driving 61 yards on its first possession. Quarterback Jason White threw a six-yard fade to Mark Clayton for the touchdown just 3:06 into the contest.
The Falcons held onto the ball for 10 plays on their next possession but were forced to punt at midfield. Then the defense made a big play that led to BG's first touchdown.
On second down White threw a pass to tight end James Moses in the flat, but Keon Newson stripped the ball from Moses to give the Falcons the ball on the Sooners' 29.
Jacobs found Cole Magner for 10 yards and a first down at the 19. Then after an option keeper netted one yard, Jacobs hooked up with Sharon on a pretty 18-yard scoring strike.
On that play Jacobs was flushed from the pocket but eluded trouble, then threw to Sharon near the goal line. Sharon reached over cornerback Antonio Perkins to make the catch at the 1, then stepped over the goal line for the score.
"On that first touchdown, that's when [I thought I could play with them]," Jacobs said. "Staying alive on that play, then getting a big touchdown against the best defense in the nation, it was a real confidence boost."
The Sooners retook the lead by grinding out a nine-play, 65-yard TD drive. Kejuan Jones, who had 30 of 46 rushing yards on the drive, earned the final 11 when he blasted untouched through the middle of the BG line into the end zone.
The Falcons responded with a 10-play, 53-yard scoring drive that ended with a 47-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham. That kick tied Suisham's career-long, which was set last season at Purdue.
Oklahoma scored twice in a span of 2:35 to take a 24-10 lead at the half. After Suisham's kick the Sooners traveled 80 yards on nine plays, with Clayton catching a nine-yard pass from White for the touchdown. Then on the next possession Sharon fumbled on the Falcons' first play, and the Sooners recovered at the BG 28. The Bowling Green defense held Oklahoma out of the end zone, but Trey DiCarlo booted a 27-yard field goal with 2:33 to play.
The Falcon offense struggled in the third quarter, gaining just 35 yards on its first three possessions while Oklahoma scored a pair of touchdowns.
"We had some problems moving the ball in the second half," Brandon said. "We should have converted some third downs to keep our defense off the field. But they're an explosive offense, and I think our defense played their hearts out today."
Late in the third quarter Jacobs regrouped the offense, leading it 80 yards on nine plays for a score. He completed 5 of 6 passes for 73 yards in that drive, which ended with Sharon's diving catch of a 16-yard TD strike.
Newson then made another big play that made things interesting. On the third play of the next series he stepped in front of a White pass and returned the interception 28 yards for a touchdown that made the score 37-24.
"All of a sudden it's a game again," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "But I appreciate the character of our offense. They came out and ran the ball down the field."
The Sooners' 17-play, 73-yard drive didn't end with a touchdown - DiCarlo kicked a 24-yard field goal. But the drive consumed almost nine minutes and left just 5:07 for the Falcons to overcome a 16-point deficit.
The fact that the Falcons weren't able to make that comeback didn't dampen the enthusiasm for the team's performance - or Jacobs' performance, for that matter. In fact, the redshirt sophomore may have been his own toughest critic in analyzing his performance.
"I thought I did all right," Jacobs said. "I thought I could have done better. Sometimes when I got outside I got jittery, and my mechanics weren't perfect."
BG hosts Southeast Missouri State at Perry Stadium next Saturday.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481.35.22076 -97.4466