Western Michigan University's Brian Fields runs away from the Bowling Green defense during the game at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Saturday.
Kalamazoo Gazette/Jonathon Gruenke Enlarge
KALAMAZOO, Mich. — One running play that didn’t work combined with a bunch of runs that did to bury the Bowling Green State University football team in a 45-21 loss to Western Michigan Saturday.
For the second consecutive week the Falcons didn’t stop an opponent’s running game as the Broncos rolled to 351 yards on the ground. That opened things up for WMU’s potent passing game, and the Broncos finished with 578 yards of total offense.
Western Michigan broke open a 21-14 game by scoring a touchdown with 30 seconds left in the first half, then adding 17 points on its first three possessions of the third quarter to drop the Falcons’ season record to 3-3 and 1-1 in Mid-American Conference play. The Broncos now are 4-2 and 2-0.
For all the WMU running plays that worked, the back-breaker for the Falcons was one run that didn’t.
That play came late in the second quarter, with the Broncos holding a one-touchdown lead but BG driving. On a fourth-and-1 play on Western Michigan’s 18, the Falcons moved to the line quickly and tried a quarterback sneak, but quarterback Matt Schilz was ruled down short of the first down marker.
“We tried to run it quick, but they put two guys over the center,” Schilz said. “I thought we had it, but the call obviously didn’t go our way.
“And that was a huge turning point for us.”
Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson was frustrated by his team’s inability to convert on the fourth-and-short play.
“It’s six inches, and it’s a quarterback sneak,” he said. “Good teams get that. I think if Matt gets his hips lower and presses forward, I think he gets it.
“If it’s six inches, you bank that you’re going to go over your best lineman, Ben Bojicic, and you’re going to get it.
“If we get that conversion and score, it’s 21-21 at the half. When we didn’t get that first down, it was like the floodgates opened.”
Western Michigan drove 82 yards in 10 plays to score with just 30.8 seconds on the clock. The Broncos then used two long third-quarter drives to both tack on points and run the clock down.
Early in the game Western Michigan used the legs of quarterback Alex Carder to gain yardage as the junior quarterback scrambled for 68 yards in the opening period to lead the Broncos to two scores.
“We knew he was capable of that,” Clawson said of Carder. “I don’t know if we thought they could beat us with running him.
“Between their collection of receivers, we were playing a lot of ‘bracket’ coverage, and we needed to do a better job of keeping our rush lanes.
“When [Carder] escapes, he’s a big kid who is a good athlete. But of the three things we were worried about [with their offense], that was the third.”
In the third quarter WMU switched to a more conventional running attack, and poor tackling caused BG to struggle to stop that run game, too. The Broncos’ Tevin Drake finished with 112 yards, Carder had 95 and Brian Fields 79 as the Falcons struggled with poor tackling for a second consecutive game; West Virginia finished with 360 yards rushing last week.
“In the second half they had a lead, so they lined up with two backs and were more traditional to run out the clock,” Clawson said. “We’ve got guys throwing elbows and shoulders in there [on tackles], and they know better.
“That’s the frustration: guys who are good tacklers for us aren’t doing things fundamentally correctly, and they know it. And every time they miss a tackle, we pay dearly for it.”
Junior defensive tackle Chris Jones, who was credited with six tackles, said the defense’s frustrations mounted as the missed tackle total rose.
“Once you stop somebody at the line and see them wiggle free, it’s very frustrating that you have to chase them down,” he said. “That tires out the defense. The more we can limit that, the better we’ll be as a defense.”
The Falcons will need to solve their defensive problems quickly as arch-rival Toledo comes to Doyt Perry Stadium next Saturday for a noon contest.
“People are going to run the ball on us until we can stop it,” Jones said. “No team needs to pass the ball if they can run it.
“It takes time off the clock, and as long as they get yards and get into the end zone, they don’t need to pass. We need to stop the run.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.