AKRON — The Bowling Green State University football team had fallen behind Akron by 10 at halftime Saturday, and the Falcons seemed to be reeling.
What did coach Dave Clawson tell his team at halftime? “To win the game,” he said.
Well, as halftime speeches go, even Knute Rockne couldn’t have matched that effort as BG dominated the Zips on both sides of the ball in the second half to claim a 24-10 victory.
The Falcons (3-3, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) rolled to 322 yards of total offense in the second half, including 226 on the ground. Meanwhile, the defense limited Akron (1-5, 0-2) to just 36 second-half yards, including minus-23 yards rushing.
Both defenses dominated the first quarter before Akron put together an 11-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to start the second quarter. Quarterback Dalton Williams hit Tyrell Goodman on a 17-yard scoring strike to cap the drive.
Late in the second quarter BG quarterback Matt Schilz was intercepted by Josh Richmond to give the Zips the ball on the Falcons 38. The defense held, but Robert Stein’s 46-yard field goal attempt barely cleared the crossbar on the final play of the half to give Akron a 10-0 lead.
At halftime, Clawson said he challenged his offense, particularly the line.
“While the coaches were making adjustments, I went to the O-line and said, ‘Can you guys run the ball?’ ” he said. “They said yes, and I told them, ‘Then we’re putting it on your back. You win us the game.’ And they responded.”
The Falcons drove 78 yards on seven plays to start the second half. Anthon Samuel carried the ball four times for 54 yards on that drive, including the final four for the score.
“As an O-lineman, [running the ball] is a challenge you gladly accept — and you look for it,” senior tackle Jordon Roussos said. “It was great that we could all get our run-game going.”
When BG got the ball back they drove 54 yards on 10 plays, with 42 of those yards ing on the ground, and Stephen Stein kicked a 26-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 with 6 minutes, 17 seconds left in the quarter.
The Falcons got pinned on their 9 to start the next drive, but three running plays pushed them to their 40. Then Schilz hit Alex Bayer with a tight end screen, and Bayer rambled 60 yards for the go-ahead score.
Bayer, who later caught a 12-yard TD pass from Schilz in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring, said the offense wasn’t worried at halftime.
“The problem was that the defense we thought they were going to play wasn’t the defense they played in the first half,” Bayer said. “We came in expecting a lot of man coverage, and they played a lot of zone.
“But we were able to bounce back and make some plays in the second half.”
Meanwhile, the defense, which gave up 280 yards in the first two quarters, dominated the Zips in the second half. Akron’s first five drives of that half netted one first down and zero yards.
One of the changes the Falcons made in the second half was to rely on a three-man rush.
“We have a good D-line,” Clawson said. “Those guys were getting pressure with three, and it’s a lot easier to cover when you’re dropping eight [in coverage].”
By the fourth quarter, Bowling Green so dominated the contest that not a single play took place on the Falcons’ side of the field.
The result was a come-from-behind victory that Roussos felt could be a springboard to bigger things.
“Collectively we thought, ‘This [game] isn’t going to slip away from us,’” he said. “And when we put that in our minds, we can do some special things."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.