BOWLING GREEN -- It wasn't enough for the Bowling Green State University football team to win Saturday -- the Falcons wanted to make a statement.
BG hoped to prove to doubters it was a better team than the one that got beat the last two weeks, and the Falcons took a step in that direction with a 48-8 victory over Rhode Island at Doyt Perry Stadium.
"After the last two weeks, it was good to see us bounce back," Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said. "It was one of those games were it was important that we not only won it, but we won it in a certain way and played at a certain level.
"I think we played the way we should have against a team that, personnel-wise, we were better than."
The Falcons rolled to 538 yards of total offense and scored on 6-of-13 possessions, while the defense limited the Rams to just 171 yards. And special teams added a touchdown on a punt return by BooBoo Gates as BG improved to 2-3 by dominating an FCS school that fell to 0-4.
"Sometimes you play these games and maybe you win it, but you don't win it the way you should," Clawson said. "I thought we won this game the way we should."
Bowling Green took command early, stopping Rhode Island on its first possession. Then Gates caught a Rams punt on his 20, swung wide left, and rambled 80 yards for a touchdown with less than four minutes off the clock.
"The last two weeks we struggled to score, so I think when BooBoo got that punt return it was, 'Whew, we're on the board,' " Clawson said. "Then we could just go play."
The Falcons again stopped the Rams and scored on their first offensive possession by driving 81 yards on eight plays, with Anthon Samuel scoring from seven yards out. BG also scored on its next offensive possession as Matt Schilz completed 3-of-4 passes for 78 yards on the drive, including a 15-yard TD strike to Chris Gallon.
"I like throwing the ball around, so that was nice," Schilz said. "But if we're running the ball well and Anthon is scoring touchdowns and winning games, that's good too."
The only time BG lost control of the game was midway through the second quarter, when a 10-yard sack of Schilz on a third-down play forced the Falcons to punt from their 18. Brian Schmiedebusch's kick traveled just 18 yards, and five plays later Rhode Island scored on a two-yard run by Robbie Delgado. The Rams botched the PAT snap, but holder Bob Bentsen threw a pass to Justin Favreau for the two-point conversion.
"The hiccups were a sequence of three plays," Clawson said. "We had a sack on third down, we shanked a punt, and we didn't have discipline in our run lanes on third down [when Bentsen, the Rams quarterback, ran for 22 yards].
"We had the game in control … But our offense had a drive, and then we got the ball back after the fake field goal, and we executed our two-minute drill."
BG took command with a five-play, 65-yard drive that Samuel capped with a 31-yard TD run. Late in the first half Rhode Island drove to the Falcons' 22, but on a fourth-and-4 play BG stuffed a fake field-goal attempt.
Then the offense raced 78 yards in seven plays that took just 48 seconds, with Schilz connecting with Gallon on a six-yard scoring pass with just 13 seconds left in the half.
"I thought offensively we were sharp -- we didn't turn the ball over, Matt [Schilz] threw for a high completion percentage, and we ran the ball very efficiently," Clawson said. "Defensively, except for the one drive on a short field we held them in check pretty well. We eliminated their run game and defended them pretty well."
Samuel added a six-yard TD run in the third quarter and finished with 127 yards rushing and three TDs on 17 carries. He was complemented by Schilz, who completed 20-of-27 passes for 281 yards and a pair of TD passes to Gallon.
The BG reserves also scored in the final quarter when quarterback Matt Johnson hooked up with Herve Coby on a 19-yard TD strike.
"Coming into the game, we weren't as worried about our opponent as we were about ourselves," Samuel said. "If we played at our level, things were going to be great."
Meanwhile the defense gave up just two drives that covered more than 20 yards and didn't allow a first down on six of the Rams' 12 drives that did not end a half.
"The game plan was to just do what we do best: Play hard and execute fast," said rover Gabe Martin, who finished with a team-high nine tackles, including a pair of tackles for loss. "We had to get back to the basics. We played with energy, and we made plays.
"We came in focused and ready to execute."
Was it enough to satisfy the Falcons' doubters from the last two weeks?
"A win is a win -- I'll take a win any way [it comes]," Samuel said. "It felt so great to have that winning feeling in the locker room, and hopefully we can get more feeling like that throughout the season."
Clawson knows the victory can be a start, but his team still has more to prove.
"I don't think we were as bad as we showed last week," he said. "I don't know if this game is a great indicator of where we are.
"I'm glad we won it, but I think the true test of this team will come in the coming weeks."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.