Bowling Green's Shaun Joplin makes a touchdown catch against Temple's Zamel Johnson in the fourth quarter to give BG the lead at Doyt Perry Stadium.
BOWLING GREEN -- In recent weeks the Bowling Green State University football team has been coming up short when the time came to make a big play.
Saturday, when the Falcons needed to make a big play, they did it.
And the result was one of the program's biggest wins in recent memory, a 13-10 victory over Temple in front of 12,056 fans at Doyt Perry Stadium.
"We've been in a lot of [close] games," said BG coach Dave Clawson, now in his third season leading the Falcons. "In 2009 we won a lot of these games, and last year we clearly didn't.
"We executed at the end. And when you get that execution at the end, you usually win."
Both the offense and defense made big plays to secure the victory and improve Bowling Green's record to 4-4 overall, and 2-2 in the Mid-American Conference. The win makes the Falcons one of four teams in the MAC's East Division with two losses, keeping them in line for a division title, while also snapping a three-game losing streak.
"[The team] has been resilient not just through this game but through the last four weeks," Clawson said. "I kept saying that this team continues to prepare well and to practice hard, and they were doing things right.
"We kept telling them, 'It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.' "
The "when" was Saturday in a low-scoring game that became tense in the fourth quarter. With the score 3-3, BG drove 67 yards in 13 plays, and Stephen Stein kicked a 29-yard field goal to give the Falcons a 6-3 lead with 13:32 left.
That lead was short-lived as Temple (5-3, 3-2 MAC) raced 71 yards on five plays, taking a 10-6 lead when Bernard Pierce scored from two yards out with 11:02 left.
After an exchange of punts, the Falcon offense stepped up. With the ball on the 44, quarterback Matt Schilz completed a 31-yard strike to Eugene Cooper to move the ball to the Owls' 25. Three plays later, the Falcons faced a do-or-die fourth-and-9 from the 24.
Schilz found Shaun Joplin on a go route, and the 24-yard TD strike provided the game-winning points.
"They had been blitzing a lot and playing a lot of man-press," Clawson said of the play call. "In that situation, you'd expect us to go to Kamar [Jorden]. But Kamar didn't get a clean release and Shaun did, and Shaun made a [great] play."
Schilz said he made a pre-snap read to throw to Joplin instead of Jorden.
"I thought Shaun had the best matchup, and he obviously made a great play," Schilz said. "It was three-step drop and let it go."
There was still 7:41 on the clock after that score, which meant the BG defense needed to step up. That's what the Falcons did -- three times, in fact. BG forced a three-and-out on Temple's next two drives, then capped a strong performance with a sack by Paul Swan on a fourth-and-8 from the Owls' 47 with 41.2 seconds left.
"In that last series, our defense wasn't passive," Clawson said. "We got after them. We got pressure, we were relentless. And I think a lot of the reason [for that] was because we were fresh."
Bowling Green put together its best defensive effort of the season, especially against the run. After allowing 979 rushing yards the previous three weeks, the Falcons gave up just 218 yards rushing to Temple, which came into the game ranked eighth among FBS schools in rushing yards. The Owls finished with just 284 yards of total offense.
"We put everyone we could in the box," Clawson said. "We came into the game saying, 'If they are going to beat us, they're going to have to do it by throwing the ball.'
"We've said that before, and that doesn't mean we've done it. But at times we had an extra linebacker out there -- we used Gabe Martin a lot and [rover] Keith Morgan a lot more, and that gave us more size out there. That gave us a bigger body in a place to be the primary hitter."
The Falcons' "big hitters" responded. All-MAC linebacker Dwayne Woods finished with 11 tackles, including a pair for negative yardage, and All-MAC defensive tackle Chris Jones had three sacks among his six stops. Swan had 10 tackles, taking part in two for negative yardage, as BG racked up nine negative-yardage plays.
"We made a decision to rotate more guys [into the game]," Clawson said. "Last week against Toledo in the second half we got worn down. We really thought we had played Kevin Moore too many reps and Chris Jones too many reps.
"We made a decision that we were going to play all eight guys. What made this impressive is that we had true freshmen like Zach Colvin and Hunter Maynard -- guys who really got it handed to them last week -- and this week, against a line that's just as physical, they responded. They responded to the challenge."
Of course, there still are more challenges, starting with a game at Kent State on Saturday.
Keeping alive the hope of a division title and stopping the losing streak resulted in a sweet feeling for the Falcons.
"It feels good to get the monkey off our backs, but we can't stop here," Woods said. "We have to keep pushing."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.
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