Shaun Joplin goes up for a touchdown catch over Kent State's Norman Wolfe Jr.
The Blade/Lori King
BOWLING GREEN — In recent weeks the Bowling Green State University offense has leaned heavily on the running game.
Saturday, with Kent State focused on stopping the run, the Falcons pass game was put to the test. And the pass offense delivered, posting a season-best 355 yards and three touchdowns, nearly carrying BG to a victory in a contest claimed by the Golden Flashes 31-24.
“[Kent State] came into the game with a mind-set that they were going to stop our running game,” Falcons coach Dave Clawson said. “They were blitzing like crazy and getting corners and safeties involved.
“When a team does that, they give you some holes in the passing game.”
Quarterback Matt Schilz took advantage of those holes, completing 22-of-44 passes for a season-high 355 yards, although he did throw three interceptions, in what was easily his most productive throwing game this year.
“I’ve been sitting here each week saying I’d rather run the ball, not play as well and win,” Schilz said afterward. “This week we were able to throw the ball around, but we were one-dimensional.
“Our receivers rose to the occasion, and our line did a good job of pass-blocking. [The receivers] have been criticized for not making plays, but they came to work each day. And we showed what we could do through the air.”
The standout was freshman Chris Gallon, who caught 10 passes for 213 yards and two TDs. Gallon, who is the only BG receiver with at least one catch in all 11 games and now has 42 catches for 582 yards and six touchdowns, all team highs.
“At times Chris was inconsistent in the first half of the season, but in the second half he has really come along and probably become our most reliable guy,” Clawson said. “JeRon Stokes couldn’t play, so we made a decision to let Chris play the whole game at ‘X’ and [Shaun] Joplin and [Ryan] Burbrink play on the other side of the field.
“I think that allowed those guys to get into the flow and rhythm of the game and make more plays.”
Clawson said Stokes suffered an injury in the Ohio contest and was not cleared to play against the Flashes.
Joplin came up big on the Falcons’ final drive, catching three passes for 35 yards as BG maneuvered down to KSU’s 17 before a fourth-down pass was intercepted in the end zone.
“Coach always says that big players step up in the fourth quarter and make big plays,” said Joplin, a Southview High School grad who had five catches for 74 yards in the contest. “Gallon and I had to step up, and we both made some big plays.
“But we just didn’t finish what we should have been able to finish.”
Joplin is second on the team in receiving with 36 catches for 552 yards and a pair of TDs.
ROCK IS ROLLING: Saturday’s game was a successful homecoming for Kent State offensive coordinator Brian Rock.
Rock was born in Bowling Green, graduated from Bowling Green High School and received two degrees from BGSU. He was a graduate assistant for the Falcons in 1985-86.
NO-PASSING ZONE: Kent State struggled in the passing game Saturday, completing just 9-of-17 passes for 91 yards.
That total marked the third time this season the Falcons have held an opponent under 100 yards passing after limiting Rhode Island to just 75 passing yards and UMass to just 33 yards through the air.
Of course, it was a hollow victory because BG allowed the Golden Flashes to run the ball 42 times for 334 yars and three scores.
“That’s what our identity has been all season,” linebacker Paul Swan said. “And they came out and ran for over 300 yards against us. That hurts big time.”
Senior linebacker Dwayne Woods led Bowling Green with 11 tackles, while sophomore safety Ryland Ward had eight and sophomore linebacker D.J. Lynch seven.