Limiting big plays key to Falcons victory

Bowling Green's Ronnie Moore hauls in a pass for a touchdown against Murray State's Darrian Skinner, left, and Perry Cooper in the first quarter.
Bowling Green's Ronnie Moore hauls in a pass for a touchdown against Murray State's Darrian Skinner, left, and Perry Cooper in the first quarter.

BOWLING GREEN — No one could blame the Bowling Green State University defense if it entered Saturday’s game against Murray State with some trepidation.

The Falcons were coming off a 42-point, 601-yard shredding by Indiana one week earlier.

The Racers came into Doyt Perry Stadium brandishing an offense that had been piling up yards and points in bunches this season.

“We didn’t change much — we just ran the calls we’ve been running,” junior linebacker D.J. Lynch said.

“We’ve got a veteran group, so we played our basic calls. And that worked out pretty well.”

It sure did, as BG allowed just 312 yards of total offense, more than 100 yards less than Murray State’s average for the season, to knock off the Racers 48-7.

Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said the Falcons tried to limit the big plays against Murray State.

“We gave up so many big plays last week, we didn’t want them to get behind us,” he said. “We wanted to make them march the field, bringing some four-man rush and soft corners and see if they could execute.

“Some of their drives they threw a bunch of big screens and got some yardage. But we didn’t think they could go 80 yards doing that – at some point we would make a play and find a way to get off the field.”

Clawson said the Falcons did a better job defending the “stretch” play that the Hoosiers used to pile up 266 yards rushing. Murray State finished with a net of 166 yards on 32 running plays.

“Our defensive tackles didn’t get cut, and we were more gap-sound,” Clawson said. “When that play gets stretched and winds back, it’s because back-side linemen are on the ground.

“It looked like we played off the cut blocks better and pursued off the back-side better.”

Lynch said it also helped that the BG offense held the ball for 35:35, more than 11 minutes longer than the Racers.

“The offense had the ball all day — we were only out there [for what felt like] 15 minutes,” Lynch said. “When we go out there fresh we can make stops, instead of going out there dragging.

“That makes things easy for us.”

Making Saturday’s defensive effort even more impressive was that it came with several players on the sidelines.

Junior rover Gabe Martin, an All-MAC player last season, was not in uniform because of a leg injury, and neither was senior safety Josh Pettus.

Early in the game BG lost another All-MAC defender in senior tackle Ted Ouellet.

“Justin Ford stepped in for Gabe and did a great job,” Lynch said. “He knew what he was doing and was always in the right spot.

“The guys in the secondary had to step up for Josh being out. … Although we rotate a lot of guys on the defensive line, [Zach] Colvin came in for Ouellet and we didn’t miss a beat.”

NEARLY PERFECT: Quarterback Matt Johnson completed 19-of-22 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns in the win and all the sophomore wanted to talk about was the three incompletions.

“The interception obviously dampers my mood a little bit,” Johnson said. “That was all on me – Chris [Gallon] ran a great route, but I threw it behind him and the DB stepped in and picked it.

“But [offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero] didn’t lose faith in me. We still threw the ball; the play-calling didn’t change.”

Johnson completed 7-of-9 passes for 70 yards in the first quarter, then was 8-for-9 for 102 yards in the second period. He connected on all four passes in the third period for 72 yards before being lifted for Matt Schilz.

GOOD NEWS: Near the end of first half a female student photographer for the athletic department, Sam Smolenski, was knocked down on a play on the Bowling Green sideline near the end zone.

A Murray State player hit Johnson out of bounds, and he collided with Smolenski. Murray State was flagged for a late hit on the play.

Smolenski, a Toledo native, was taken from the field on a stretcher. She was treated at Wood County Hospital and released.

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