JERI REICHANADTER Enlarge
MUNCIE, Ind. - Bowling Green hoped to keep two streaks intact when it faced Ball State Saturday.
With a victory, the Falcons would keep the Cardinals winless on the season and extend their modest win streak to two.
Bowling Green quickly ended any possibility of becoming Ball State's first victim.
BG put together its best first-half offensive effort this season - scoring 24 points - to defeat Ball State 31-17 before an announced crowd of 10,192 at Scheumann Field.
After taking the big lead, the Falcons (3-4, 2-1 MAC) never looked back.
"I thought the first half we played our best football of the year," coach Dave Clawson said. "I thought it was probably as good as we've looked on defense. Offensively, we were sharp and we took advantage of our red zone opportunities with the exception of the one missed kick."
Quarterback Tyler Sheehan delivered another 300-plus yard passing day en route to guiding the Falcons on four first-half scoring drives to establish control of the game.
Three of the drives ended with Sheehan finding Freddie Barnes - the nation's leading receptions leader - for touchdown completions.
Sheehan, who finished 28-of-41 passing for 376 yards, found Barnes for touchdown completions of 21, 33, and six yards before the end of the first half.
Barnes, coming off a school-record 22-catch effort for 278 yards against Kent State, pulled in 10 receptions for 160 yards against a Cardinals defense that was ranked 12th in the conference.
"That's just an experienced quarterback recognizing the defense and to know the matchups he has," Clawson said. "Again, that's also a credit to the O-line that he has time to recognize coverages and allow him time to see the safety rotations."
The Cardinals (0-7, 0-3 MAC) tightened the score in the second half with three scoring drives against a Falcons defense that appeared to relax after intermission.
"I'm a little disappointed that in the second half we didn't finish it a little bit better," Clawson said. "Again, we're happy we won the game. I thought our guys played hard. I just really wish in that second half our guys would have tightened down a little more on defense than we did."
Sheehan, who threw for a career-best 505 yards against Kent State a week earlier, was well on his way by halftime to potentially a second straight 500-plus yard passing day. He went into the Falcons' locker room at halftime having already completed 21-of-30 passes for 299 yards. Barnes was the recipient of eight of those completions for 140 yards, while Chris Wright had pulled in six for 104 yards.
"We didn't shoot ourselves in the foot," Barnes said, regarding the Falcons' explosive work in the first half. "The offensive line blocked great, and we had a great game plan as always, and we executed for the most part."
The Falcons took the opening kickoff and marched down the field to score. Sheehan led the seven-play drive that covered 66 yards and ended with Barnes getting between two defenders for a leaping catch for the first of his scores to make it 7-0 with 12:19 left in the first quarter.
Sheehan and Barnes led the way to the Falcons' second scoring drive, capping off a nine-play, 80-yard march by connecting on a 33-yard seam route to make it 14-0 with 13:30 left in the second quarter.
Jerry Phillips kicked a career-long 44-yard field goal to give BG a 17-0 advantage with just over three minutes left in the half.
Yet, the Falcons weren't quite done putting points on the scoreboard in the first half against Ball State, which lost its starting quarterback Kelly Page (thumb) to an injury during the contest.
The Falcons' defense held strong and forced the Cardinals to punt with just over a minute left in the second quarter.
Sheehan needed only 59 seconds to lead the offense 49 yards to its final score before the break. He completed 4-of-5 passes on the drive. He connected with Wright for 11 yards. After an incompletion, he found Wright open for a 23-yard gainer before going right back to Wright for another nine yards to put BG at Ball State's
Barnes finished off the drive by pulling in his third TD when he got behind a single defender to make it 24-0 with 19 seconds left in the first half.
"We have one-on-ones everyday in practice, so we go over that type of [situation] everyday, everyday, everyday," Barnes said. "Sometimes I come down with them, sometimes I don't. That particular time I felt like it was real big for us to get seven points on the board before the half."
The Falcons took the sizeable lead into halftime and ultimately came away with their first win streak of the year.
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