Burbrink comes through with key catches


KENT, Ohio — Ryan Burbrink had two highlight-worthy plays midway through the third quarter of the Bowling Green State University football team’s 41-22 win over Kent State Saturday.

One was an over-the-shoulder catch on a punt that was a reminder of the catch Willie Mays made in the 1954 World Series.

“I used to play center field,” Burbrink said with a smile.

But the other play will make the highlight reels as Burbrink caught a long pass from quarterback Matt Johnson and raced 92 yards for a touchdown.

Burbrink said Johnson played the key role on the TD pass.

“He didn’t lead me into anybody,” Burbrink said. “The backside safety dropped down, and it was open.

“[Johnson] had great patience. He’s a shorter guy, like I am, so it’s hard to see him back there sometimes. But I knew the ball was coming.”

The play was the third-longest pass play in Bowling Green history, and it gave the Falcons a more comfortable 34-22 lead.

“We had a lot of reps with that [play] — against that exact defense,” Johnson said. “We knew that if we called that play and they were in that defense, if [tight end Alex] Bayer wasn’t open quick, Burbrink would be open deep.

“And he made a good catch and run.”

What made that play especially important is that it came on a third-and-15 play.

Had the pass been incomplete, the Golden Flashes probably would have enjoyed good field position following a BG punt — and a chance to come back in a game where the Falcons led by just five points.

“We protected it well, and Matt had good patience in the pocket,” Falcons coach Dave Clawson said. “It was one of those plays where it was a great [pass], and Burbrink extended for it.

“I’m sure that if it was another half-inch inside, it would have been deflected.”

Burbrink thought his catch of the punt was the better play, but Johnson wasn’t as sure.

“He scared all of us,” Johnson said of Burbrink’s catch of the punt. “We looked at him and said, ‘What are you doing?’

“He’s got great hands. The fact that he was able to come down with that doesn’t surprise us. Hopefully he doesn’t do that ever again.”

JOPLIN’S BIG DAY: While Shaun Joplin’s game against Kent State wasn’t the best single-game performance of his career, it certainly was close.

Joplin caught six passes for 113 yards against the Golden Flashes.

He came up just short of his career bests, which came in a seven-catch, 117-yard effort against Idaho last season.

“Every catch he made was huge,” Clawson said. “He caught everything — he didn’t drop a ball.”

All six of the Southview High School product’s catches gained at least 10 yards, and all six resulted in first downs — including three that were good for third-down conversions.

NOTES: Bowling Green’s 576 yards of total offense was the most since the Falcons hung 666 yards on Western Michigan in a 52-0 victory on Nov. 6, 2004. … Saturday’s victory marked the first time BG won a game in which it allowed more than 100 rushing yards since beating Buffalo on Nov. 25, 2011, in a game where the Bulls had 188 yards on the ground. Kent State had 138 yards Saturday. … The Falcons have outscored their first two opponents 45-7 in the second half.

Contact John Wagner at:, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.