BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University defensive tackle Chris Jones is a modest man.
But even Jones was moved to do a bit of bragging about the Falcons’ defensive after BG claimed a 24-3 win over Eastern Michigan at Doyt Perry Stadium on Saturday.
“I’m going to brag on us for a little bit: I don’t know if there’s a defensive line anywhere in the country playing better than we are,” he said. “We’re wreaking havoc on the offensive lines we’re playing, and quarterbacks have to scramble around.
“Whenever you have a defense working like one, like we have for the past couple of weeks, you can see [the results].”
For the fifth game in a row the Falcons defense was dominating, limiting the Eagles to just 178 yards of total offense. And for the third game in a row the defense scored a touchdown, matching the number of TDs it has allowed in the last five games.
BG’s fifth victory makes the Falcons bowl-eligible at 6-3 overall and 4-1 in Mid-American Conference play, while Eastern Michigan fell to 1-7 and 0-4.
Bowling Green’s defensive plan was clear: Stop the EMU running game, which had piled up 531 yards and five touchdowns in the past two contests.
“We loaded the box, put the safety in there, and put some pressure on our corners to cover,” BG coach Dave Clawson explained. “[EMU] made a few plays, but I thought we covered them well and didn’t concede any easy throws.
“And if we can cover them, our D-line pressures the quarterback pretty well.”
The Eagles finished with just 64 net yards rushing, with top running back Bronson Hill posting just 57 yards on 13 attempts.
“All week long we’ve been hearing about Bronson Hill, Bronson Hill, Bronson Hill,” said sophomore rover Gabe Martin, who led the Falcons with seven tackles. “We got sick of hearing his name, so this week we really made it a point to shut him down. And that’s what we did.”
The Bowling Green offense posted touchdowns on two of their first three possessions to give the Falcons some early breathing room.
On its first drive BG used the running game to move to midfield before unwrapping a trick play that caught the Eagles flat-footed. Quarterback Matt Schilz lateralled to Jordan Hopgood, who then threw a pass downfield to Shaun Joplin, who was open behind the EMU defense and scored untouched on a 53-yard play.
“We’ve been practicing that since preseason camp,” Clawson said. “I think that was a great call by [offensive coordinator Warren] Ruggerio. He sensed we needed a little spark.
“When he called it, I almost stopped it because of the wind. But [Hopgood] is a great athlete, and he threw a perfect ball.”
One of the few mistakes by the BG defense was a facemask penalty on a sack that kept a drive alive, and Eastern Michigan got a 42-yard field goal from Dylan Mulder that made it 7-3 with 5:17 left in the quarter.
But the Falcons responded by driving 84 yards on eight plays, while John Pettigrew carrying the ball four times for 42 yards before Andre Givens scored on a 27-yard run.
From there the Bowling Green offense became conservative, posting just 186 yards of total offense in the final three quarters after piling up 170 yards in the first period alone.
But that wasn’t a problem because after that EMU field goal the BG defense allowed the Eagles to run just two plays on the Falcons side of the field.
The only touchdown that was scored with the Bowling Green defense on the field came midway through the third quarter, when Martin sacked Eagles quarterback Tyler Benz and forced a fumble that Jones picked up and returned 23 yards for a score.
“It was a blitz call, and I got off the edge good,” Martin said. “It opened up for me, and I just tried to clean it up.
“Then Chris got the touchdown, and I was excited.”
Jones was grinned ear-to-ear after the game after he described what could be the first touchdown of his football career.
“I went outside, and the tackle didn’t block me, so I went to get the quarterback, and I missed,” Jones admitted. “Then I saw Gabe hit him and I thought, ‘Yeah Gabe.’"
“Then I saw the ball on the ground and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh.’ So I picked it up and locked it to my chest because I wasn’t going to let it go.”
Tyler Tate added a 28-yard field goal in the final quarter to sew up the potential bowl bid, something that Martin said was only one of the team’s goals.
“Our goal was to get to November and still have a chance to play for the MAC [title],” he said. “Now that we’re bowl-eligible and still have a chance to win the MAC, all of our goals are still attainable.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.