MOBILE, Ala. - The flyer circulating around these parts read "Shootout at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Bowling Green State University versus Tulsa. Sunday night, 7 p.m."
Tulsa arrived to the fight brandishing a stun gun, and the Golden Hurricane used it liberally. BG brought a knife and repeatedly fell on it.
Last night's GMAC Bowl didn't live up to its billing of a close high-scoring affair. That never materialized in Tulsa's dominating 63-7 victory over a BGSU team that looked like it forgot everything about the sport during its time off since Nov. 23.
It will be an anguishing seven-month hiatus for the Falcons who will spend the offseason wondering just what happened in early January when they were embarrassed in front of 36,932 spectators and a national TV audience that had reason to clamor for ESPN to end the humiliation by broadcasting a poker rerun.
"I'm not going to beat myself up over this and I'm not going to beat the kids up over this," Falcons coach Gregg Brandon said.
This loss doesn't discredit BGSU's fine season, in which it went from 4-8 in 2006 to a respectable 8-5. But it does raise some questions, which can be addressed equally to the offense and defense.
"Just a lot of disappointment and emotions," said a teary-eyed Kory Lichtensteiger, who played his final college game but will perhaps have a future in the NFL. "Probably the closest I've been to heartbroken in a while."
Clearly the Falcons benefited from playing in a weak Mid-American Conference, which went 0 for 3 in bowls, but neither Tulsa nor Conference USA is considered a juggernaut. BG will return all but five starters next year, but visions of a memorable season in 2008 took a significant hit last night.
"The times I'll remember are beating Toledo and beating Buffalo and developing lifelong relationships," senior Sean O'Drobinak said. "I got 12 friends I went to hell and back with. Those are the things I'm going to remember. I'm not going to remember tonight."
The debacle began early in the first quarter and didn't end until the game clock read 0:00 in the fourth quarter. Fumbles, four of them, put BG behind early, and that's not the recipe for success against the nation's top offense.
Antonio Smith, Tyler Sheehan, Anthony Turner and Freddie Barnes each let the ball fall to the turf and Tulsa (10-4) made the Falcons regret their gaffes by scoring touchdowns on each of the ensuing drives.
The Golden Hurricane led 21-0 after the first quarter, 35-0 at halftime, and 49-7 entering the third. Their 63 points are the most scored in a bowl game this season.
Roger Williams kept BG from getting shutout with a 78-yard kickoff return with 12:33 to go in the third quarter. Perhaps the law of averages called for BG to do something positive on a kick return given all of its opportunities.
"Roger Williams had been close all season and he finally got one tonight," Brandon said. "We did a nice job with the returns most of the night and had good field position. We could just never take advantage of it."
The Falcons accumulated just 229 yards of offense, just eight more than they had on kick returns.
Tulsa's offense was as good as advertised, rolling up 562 yards on 86 plays. Paul Smith was tremendous, completing 27 of 45 for 312 yards. His five touchdown passes went to Trae Johnson (13 and 14 yards), Tarrion Adams (19 yards), Charles Clay (three yards) and A.J. Whitmore (six yards). Smith added a two-yard run in the third quarter to make the score 49-7. Adams rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Tulsa becomes the only team to ever have a 5,000-yard passer (Smith), a 1,000-yard rusher
(Adams), and three receivers with 1,000 or more yards (Clay, Johnson and Brennan Marion). But to do so, the Golden Hurricane continued to pass late in the fourth quarter. Brandon didn't have issue with that decision but he also didn't defend it.
"They're trying to get a record I guess," Brandon said. "I don't have a comment on that."
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