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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- A steady rain and leaden skies enveloped the Bowling Green State University football team as it played West Virginia on Saturday.
By game's end the scoreboard added to the Falcons' gloom as the 22nd-ranked Mountaineers rolled to a 55-10 thrashing in front of 46,603 fans at Milan Pusker Stadium.
Saturday's loss was a total team failure as the BG defense allowed 643 yards of total offense, including 367 yards on the ground, while the Falcon offense managed just 217 yards and didn't score after the 7:47 mark of the first quarter.
"We knew they were a good team with good players," BG coach Dave Clawson said of West Virginia. "I don't think we played the best game we could play, and I think we needed to do that to have a shot against those guys."
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Things started poorly for Bowling Green (3-2) as BooBoo Gates fumbled the opening kickoff and the Mountaineers (4-1) recovered on the Falcons' 39. The Falcons bounced back: defense limited West Virginia to a field goal, Gates returned the following kickoff 77 yards, and Matt Schilz threw an 18-yard TD toss to Ray Hutson on their first play.
"To hold them to a field goal after the opening kickoff, I thought that was a great 'win' for us," Clawson said. "Then to return the next kickoff and punch the ball into the end zone, that was [important]."
The BG defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense drove 52 yards in 11 plays to set up a 21-yard field goal by Stephen Stein that made it 10-3 Falcons with 7:47 left in the first half.
From there it was all downhill -- and that's not something you want to experience in the hills of West Virginia against a team called the Mountaineers.
The West Virginia offense scored touchdowns on its next five possessions, building a 38-10 lead at the half. The problem for BG was that the pass-happy Mountaineers used a punishing ground game to score, rolling to 256 rushing yards at the half and 360 yards in the game.
Dustin Garrison finished with 291 yards rushing and a pair of scores, while Shawne Alston had 49 yards and two more TDs on eight carries.
"We couldn't stop them -- we couldn't get off the field," Clawson said. "We overran some of their zone [rush] plays, and we did a little better [stopping that] in the second half. But they won the battle up front, and when everything gets three or four yards into the secondary, you're battling uphill."
When the Falcons would load up to stop the running game, quarterback Geno Smith completed 18-of-30 passes for 238 yards and three more TDs. Ivan McCartney caught five passes for 54 yards and a TD, while Stedman Bailey had four catches for 112 yards.
"Our cornerbacks took a turn giving up a post [pattern] for a touchdown," Clawson said. "They were well-run routes and well-thrown balls, but in that coverage we were taking away the inside.
"Some times you get into a game like this and guys get out of rhythm of playing even the base, fundamental defense. And every time we made a mistake, they made us play.
"It became pick your poison: Do you die a quick death or a slow death?"
Meanwhile the BG offense turned the ball over three times in their final five possession of the first half, notching just 74 yards on 23 plays. Clawson obviously was frustrated by the turnovers on offense.
The only bright spot for the offense was the play of third-string tailback Jamel Martin, who had 23 of BG's 36 carries and finished with 111 yards. He saw significant action after starting tailback Jordan Hopgood tweaked his ankle early in the contest, and second-stringer Anthon Samuel wasn't 100 percent after suffering an injury in the Miami victory last week.
Martin's rushing total wasn't a product of running the ball in a blowout, as 83 of his yards came on 12 first-half carries.
"I definitely needed a chance," Martin said. "But the offensive line was the reason I got all these yards."
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.