BOWLING GREEN — For more than three quarters, the Bowling Green State University football team was in the dumps.
For the final 10 minutes against Buffalo, the Falcons rallied, pumping excitement and emotion into a homecoming contest played in front of 14,544 at Perry Stadium.
But Bryan Wright's potential game-winning 40-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right as time expired, crashing BG's emotional elevator ride at rock bottom.
It meant the Falcons suffered a 28-26 loss in a mistake-filled contest that featured 11 turnovers.
“We made a handful of critical plays to give us a chance to win late,” Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said. “The bottom line is that we didn't get anything going on offense.”
With the loss in the Mid-American Conference opener for both, the Falcons fell to 1-4 overall, while Buffalo moved to 2-3.
The Bulls seemed poised to post as easy victory when they took possession of the ball on their 47 leading 28-13 with 11:44 to play. Buffalo drove to BG's 21 before lightning struck: the Falcons' Robert Lorenzi stepped in front of a Jerry Davis pass at the 18 and zig-zagged 82 yards for a touchdown.
“I felt somebody on defense needed to step up,” Lorenzi said.
While the Falcons missed a two-point conversion, the defense forced a three-and-out and took possession on Buffalo's 37. While the offense started moving backwards, Willie Geter got things going in the right direction, catching a screen pass by Aaron Pankratz and zipping 48 yards for a score.
BG again got the ball back, but the comeback seemed stymied when a Pankratz pass was intercepted by Sherrod Lott at the Buffalo 24 with 1:26 left. But the Bulls gave the Falcons new life when Ike Nduka fumbled a snap that BG's Keith Morgan recovered on the Bulls' 24 just 10 seconds later.
“I was going to choke somebody at that moment for us to even be in that situation,” Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn said.
BG maneuvered the ball to the middle of the field, setting up Wright's attempt from 40 yards with 3.3 seconds left. The Bulls called two timeouts before the kick, which had the height and the distance — but was wide right.
BG managed 176 yards of total offense, including just nine net yards rushing. The Falcons were 3-of-16 on third-down plays and managed just one drive that covered more than 37 yards.
And while the defense forced six turnovers, including four interceptions, it also surrendered 441 yards of total offense and allowed Buffalo to convert 12-of-19 third-down plays.
“It was a disappointing loss, and not because of the final play or the final kick,” Clawson said. “I thought we played very poorly for three quarters, and we probably were very fortunate — very lucky — to even have a chance to win the game at the end.”
Buffalo held the ball for 38:22 while BG had it for just 21:38.
The first half was nearly even as Buffalo held a 14-13 advantage. The Bulls held a 268-135 advantage in total offense, scoring on a one-yard TD plunge by Nduka and a 24-yard pass play from Davis to Alex Neutz.
BG stayed close when a Lorenzi interception and return gave them a short field that Jordan Hopgood converted into a touchdown, and when Tyrone Pronty caught a 49-yard scoring strike over the middle from Pankratz. Wright missed the PAT kick following the Hopgood TD.
“On defense we were just too uneven,” Clawson said.
Buffalo seemed to take control in the third, driving 51 yards in 10 plays to score on a seven-yard scoring strike from Davis to Marcus Rivers, then adding a 10-play, 63-yard drive that was capped by a nine-yard pass from Davis to Terrel Jackson with 5:34 left in the quarter.
That merely set the stage for BG's big comeback and its final heartbreak.
“Nobody feels bad for us — nobody feels sorry for us,” Clawson said. “I told our guys that it's only going to get worse if they don't come together.
“It was a tough game, but it didn't come down to one kick or one play. It came down to not executing in the first three quarters in the way we needed to execute.”
Contact John Wagner at:email@example.com or 419-724-6481.