KENT, Ohio - Who knows how many times BGSU coach Gregg Brandon had to repeat these simple instructions to his team over the past two weeks: Someone must step up.
The mantra finally seemed to stick in the minds of Bowling Green State University players yesterday, as the Falcons defeated Kent State 24-14 at Dix Stadium, their first win since star quarterback Omar Jacobs went down with an injury.
From Anthony Turner, who returned not long after a jarring hit by two Golden Flashes players left him stumbling into the locker room, to linebacker Terrel White and the defensive line, who combined for five sacks and five tackles for loss. Even to Joe Timchenko, who made a field goal when the Falcons offense was flustered, BGSU made enough plays to stay in the Mid-American Conference East race.
"The mind-set was do or die," senior nose guard Mike Thaler said.
The Falcons' effort was rewarded by regaining the reins to their destiny, as Akron, which held a tiebreaker over them, lost yesterday. BGSU's next game, at Miami on Nov. 15, will likely decide the division title.
BGSU (5-4, 4-2 MAC) allowed just 25 yards rushing, helped by five tackles for losses totaling 40 yards. The Falcons had almost constant pressure on Kent State quarterback Michael Machen.
Machen completed 27 of 39 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns, but his scrambles were mostly for naught, rushing for minus-29 yards.
"Our defensive line really put pressure on the quarterback, I thought Terrel White was all over the field and I thought our DBs were hitting like torpedoes," Brandon said. "The guys that we asked to step up, particularly seniors, most of them did, and that's what we needed."
On their first scoring drive the Falcons were unstoppable on the ground, ending with P.J. Pope's nine-yard run. But then came inconsistency, followed by fear.
The Flashes tied the score on Derrick Bush's 13-yard reception, the drive propelled by a 45-yard flea flicker in which safety Terrill Mayberry fell down. The Falcons responded by going three-and-out.
Then with 10 minutes left in the second quarter, an 11-yard draw by Turner deep into Flashes territory ended when Fritz Jacques and Barry Drakeford combined to bring him down. The hit knocked Turner out of the game with pain on his left side.
"I was wondering if I was going to have to put Stud [offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa] in to play quarterback," Brandon said.
Van Johnson, a quarterback until converting to cornerback this season, entered the game in place of Turner. The offense went nowhere but Timchenko saved the drive by making a 30-yard field goal, just the fourth attempt for the Falcons this year, to put the Falcons up 10-7.
Turner re-entered the game with two minutes left in the half after Jelani Jordan forced a Kent State fumble at the Flashes' 29. The Falcons scored just before halftime, Turner finding Ruben Ruiz on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to give BGSU a 17-7 lead.
Turner felt the effects of the injury the rest of the game, but said, "When you have a will to win, you really don't feel anything."
In the third quarter BGSU took advantage of another turnover, an interception by John Haneline, to take a 17-point lead on a three-yard run by Turner. The Flashes (1-8, 0-6) reduced the lead early in the fourth on a 38-yard screen pass that Bush took down the left sideline, but the Falcons defense made no more mistakes after that, displaying some of their best tackling of the season.
"A lot of the preseason hype, we haven't lived up to those expectations for whatever reasons," Brandon said. "But our guys have focused and got it done to the point where hype or no hype, we're still playing for the championship."
Contact Maureen Fulton at: email@example.com or 419-724-6160.