BOWLING GREEN -- The Bowling Green State University football team was far from perfect Saturday.
But it was good enough to claim a 21-13 victory over Idaho at Doyt Perry Stadium.
The Falcons overcame 12 penalties that set them back 89 yards, not to mention a pair of turnovers, to claim their first win of the season following a loss at Florida.
"It's good to get the first win of the year," BG coach Dave Clawson said. "It certainly wasn't pretty, but we've had a number of games over the years that we didn't find a way to win. It was good to get into the fourth quarter of a tight game and find a way to win."
After an exchange of punts to start the contest, Bowling Green got on the board first with the lone touchdown of the first half.
Quarterback Matt Schilz threw a 42-yard pass down the middle to Shaun Joplin to get the Falcons rolling, and four plays later Anthon Samuel capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown run with 6:12 left in the period.
The game remained 7-0 until Idaho collected a pair of field goals in the final minutes of the first half. Even though it cut BG's lead to a single point, avoiding giving up a pair of touchdowns was huge.
"Keeping the out of the red zone before the half was really big," Clawson said. "Our defense made stops when it had to, and kept them out of the end zone -- and kept us in the game in the first half."
The Vandals got the ball with 7:51 left in the first half and drove 77 yards in 11 plays, thanks in part to a pair of long passes by QB Dominique Blackman. He completed an 18-yard pass to Michael LeGrone and a 23-yard strike to Jahrie Level to push the ball to BG's 10.
But the Falcons held, and Trey Farquhar was forced to kick a 20-yard field goal.
On its next possession BG fumbled and Idaho's Maxx Forde recovered on the Falcons' 32, but again the Bowling Green defense bent but did not break. The Vandals got as close as the 5 but did not score, forcing Farquhar to kick a 22-yard field goal with just 15 seconds remaining before half.
"Every time you get a stop in the 'red zone,' that's awesome," said defensive tackle Chris Jones, who finished with three tackles for loss among his five stops. "That's our goal throughout the season: Don't let them get touchdowns in the red zone."
Idaho got the ball to start the second half and drove to the 19, but Farquhar missed a 36-yard field goal that seemed to energize the Falcons.
Bowling Green drove 80 yards on nine plays to score a TD on its first possession of the second half. Schilz completed 6-of-7 passes on the drive, and Anthon Samuel capped the drive with a 29-yard touchdown run with 3:46 left in the quarter.
Then the BG defense stepped up, with Josh Pettus intercepting a Blackman pass to give the Falcons the ball on the Vandals' 28. Three plays later Schilz found Je'Ron Stokes open in the middle of the field, and Stokes weaved his way into the end zone from 15 yards out, giving the Falcons a 21-6 lead with 2:31 to play.
Idaho made things interesting in the late going, using a seven-play, 78-yard scoring drive to score with 6:22 left in the final quarter. The Vandals' Blackman completed a 16-yard fade pass to Marquan Major to make it a one-touchdown game.
Bowling Green was able to drive to Idaho's 46 but gave the ball up with 3:41 left, with Idaho taking possession on its 20. But the Falcons' Paul Swan, who led the Falcons with nine tackles, stripped the ball at the end of a pass completion, and Aaron Foster recovered it on the Vandals' 33 with 3:31 still to play, and Bowling Green was able to run out the clock before having to give up the ball.
"Those two turnovers in the fourth quarter -- they were the football game," Clawson said. "The one led directly to the touchdown that put us up by 15, and the other took away any chance they had of coming back. At that point we were able run the ball and wind down the clock.
"It was a game of mistakes, and they made one more than us."
The Falcons had 373 yards of offense despite the struggles of the offense -- "We looked undisciplined," Clawson said. "I thought our offensive line, at times, was almost dysfunctional."
The Falcons got a big game from Southview High School graduate Shaun Joplin. The junior finished with seven catches for 117 yards to bounce back from a disappointing effort at Florida in which he dropped several key passes in the loss to the nationally ranked Gators.
"I had to come back stronger after last week," Joplin said. "It was pretty rough for me. I was letting [the Florida game] get to my head. But I had better practices this week and showed it in the game this week."
Schilz completed 24-of-35 passes for 283 yards, with Chris Gallon adding six receptions for 89 yards.
Idaho's Blackman, who did not play in the Vandals' season-opening loss to Eastern Washington, completed 30-of-37 passes for 352 yards to offset a strong effort by the BG defense, which allowed Idaho to finish with just six net yards rushing.
"This win was huge," Clawson said. "Our September schedule is not easy. This was a big game for us.
"Now we have [Toledo], the team that is picked to win the West, on the road. We should have a very attentive group, because we know what's at stake."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.