WASHINGTON — Anyone who tried to predict the play of the Bowling Green State University football team’s special teams in Thursday’s Military Bowl would have struggled.
The areas where the Falcons struggled this season were generally strong in the bowl contest. Meanwhile one of BG’s strongest units, the punting game, failed the Falcons in a 29-20 loss to San Jose State at RFK Stadium.
The punting game saw Brian Schmiedebusch, an All-Mid-American Conference second team punter this season, average just 31.7 yards per kick on seven attempts. He suffered the first block of his career in the third quarter, leading to a safety that ultimately resulted in nine points for the Spartans.
“The kid has been an all-conference punter two years in a row,” Clawson said of Schmiedebusch. “He’s a good player, but he had a bad day.
“I thought his procedure was slow, and he looked out of synch. He had one good punt that pinned them on their 9-yard line, but other than that he didn’t perform at the level we’re used to him playing at.”
Schmiedebusch’s first two punts traveled 47 and 40 yards, but his third — which came with roughly four minutes left in the second quarter — covered just 15 yards and set up San Jose State’s field goal late in the period.
After a 39-yard punt near the end of the first half and a 33-yarder early in the third, Schmiedebusch had a punt travel just 17 yards. The Spartans blocked his next punt, which turned into a safety when it rolled out the back of the end zone, and his final kick traveled 31 yards.
Outside of the punt game, Bowling Green’s special teams had a strong day.
Tyler Tate made a pair of field goals that traveled 28 and 33 yards, while Stephen Stein was perfect on a pair of extra points. And Gabe Martin blocked a San Jose State punt to set up a field goal by the Falcons.
BG also won both sides of the kickoff return battle. The Spartans, who came into the game ranked sixth among FBS schools with 26.26 yards per kickoff return, averaged just 15.2 yards on kickoff returns.
Meanwhile John Pettigrew’s 52-yard kickoff return, the second-longest in Military Bowl history, was a factor in BG’s 26.8 yards per kickoff return.
BY THE NUMBERS: The Falcons sold roughly 3,000 tickets for the Military Bowl. BG sent eight busses to our nation’s capitol in the days leading up to the bowl, including a fan bus and six busses of band members.
While the announced attendance of 17,835 was the lowest in the bowl’s five-year history, Steve Beck, the president and executive director of the bowl, was complimentary of the Falcons’ participation, especially the team.
“Every report that we’ve had — from the hotel, the Capitol visit — everything has been positive,” Beck said. “They’ve been a great group of kids.”
SAYING GOODBYE: Thursday’s contest was the final game for 14 BG seniors.
Linebacker Dwayne Woods finished with a team-best eight tackles in the contest, while defensive tackle Chris Jones was credited with one tackle as well as a fumble recovery that set up a touchdown.
Kicker Stephen Stein made both of his extra-point attempts, while offensive tackle Jordon Roussos made his 31st career start.
And John Pettigrew finished with a game-high 59 yards rushing, as well as 71 yards on two kickoff returns for 130 yards of total offense.
The rest of the departing seniors are defensive backs Austin Collier and Mark Mays, offensive linemen Scott Hodges, Chip Robinson, and Dominique Wharton, long snapper Cory Johnson, rover Tim Moore, kicker Matt Oczypok, and wide receiver Bart Tanski.
“Bowls are very bittersweet,” Clawson admitted. “You want the season to go on, and you love spending more time with [the seniors], but it’s hard.
“I never get to coach guys like Chris Jones or Jordon Roussos or Dwayne Woods again.”