WASHINGTON — The Bowling Green State University football team’s 29-20 loss to San Jose State in the Military Bowl summed up the Falcons’ season well.
At times the Falcons were good in 2012. But when BG needed to make a great play to beat a great team — both during the season and in the bowl game, which was played at RFK Stadium — the Falcons came up short.
As a result Bowling Green finished with an 8-5 record, while the 24th-ranked Spartans improved to 11-2.
“San Jose State made more plays than us, and that’s why they deserved to win,” BG coach Dave Clawson said. “We made too many mistakes and didn’t make enough plays. On offense we didn’t generate enough yards and didn’t generate enough points, and at some point you have to score points to win games.”
The first half was low scoring as both defenses shut down the running game, forcing their opponents to make passes in order to move the ball.
San Jose State struck first on a four-play, 79-yard drive in which Spartans quarterback David Fales completed three straight passes for big yardage. The last play was a 33-yard scoring strike to Kyle Nunn at the 10-minute, 5-second mark in the first quarter.
BG responded with a drive of its own, driving down to SJSU’s 5 before stalling and settling for a 28-yard field goal by Tyler Tate.
The Falcons forced a three-and-out on San Jose State’s next possession, and Gabe Martin blocked a punt to give the Falcons the ball on the Spartan 29. But again Bowling Green failed to turn the red zone opportunity into a TD, instead getting a 33-yard field goal by Tate on the first play of the second quarter.
Late in the half Fales completed a 35-yard pass to Noel Grigsby that set up a 36-yard field goal by Austin Lopez to make the halftime score 10-6. Fales, who was voted the Military Bowl’s MVP, completed 15 of 18 passes in the first half for 184 yards, and for the game he completed 33 of 43 attempts for a bowl-record 395 yards.
“That’s the best passing offense we faced all year,” Clawson said. “Even when we held them down they were completing passes."
In the third quarter the Falcons got a big play when Charlie Walker sacked Fales and forced a fumble that Chris Jones scooped and carried down to San Jose State’s 8, with Anthon Samuel scoring on the game’s next play to make it 13-10 BG.
But the game turned when, with 4:18 left in the third quarter, the Spartans’ Bene Benwikere blocked a Brian Schmiedebusch punt out of the end zone for a safety.
After a free kick Fales completed 4 of 5 passes, including an 18-yard scoring strike to Chandler Jones, to make it 19-13 with 2:16 left in the quarter.
“Right there we go from a three-point lead to a six-point deficit in two minutes,” Clawson said.
Early in the fourth quarter Bowling Green put together its best drive in the contest. The Falcons rolled 68 yards on eight plays, including a 34-yard run by John Pettigrew down to the SJSU 1 that set up Pettigrew’s one-yard TD plunge to make it 20-19 BG with 10:26 to play.
But San Jose State responded with a 13-play, 68-yard drive during which Fales completed 7 of 10 passes for 80 yards — helping the Spartans overcome two running plays that lost 12 yards — to set up a 27-yard field goal by Lopez with just 4:43 to play.
"Our [offensive] line did a great job," Fales said. "If you watch, I’m sitting back getting to my fourth progression on a few of our plays, so that’s amazing.
"Our receivers were making great plays, De’Leon [Eskridge] made a catch with one hand. There was just a lot of great plays made out there."
BG was unable to bounce back as Schilz was sacked and fumbled on the next series, and San Jose State recovered on the Falcon 24. Five plays later De’Leon Eskridge scored from a yard out to seal the win.
“They have a really good front — they were very active,” senior lineman Jordon Roussos said of the SJSU defense. “We didn’t finish off blocks, and at times we had communication breakdowns.”
The Falcons managed just 264 yards of total offense, including 105 yards rushing. Matt Schilz completed 16 of 35 passes for 159 yards, with Chris Gallon catching seven passes for 73 yards. Pettigrew led the BG rushing attack with 59 yards on seven carries.
“That was a top-30 defense,” Clawson said of San Jose State. “I didn’t think we’d go up and down the field, but I’m disappointed that we didn’t generate more drives and get at least another offensive score.”
And while the defense held the Spartans to minus-15 net yards rushing, that was offset by SJSU’s 395 yards passing.
“We played super defense — at times,” Clawson said. “We played well enough on offense — at times.
“But in the games that could have made our season special —at Florida, against Kent State, and [this game] — we didn’t make the plays that put us over the top to have a great season.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.