BOWLING GREEN — It took six games, but the Bowling Green State University football team finally claimed its first interception of the season.
The interception nearly came on the first play of the fourth quarter of the Falcons’ 28-7 win over UMass on Saturday. On that play Minutemen quarterback Mike Wegzyn threw a pass into a crowd, and BG’s Paul Senn picked it off at the 12, but that play was negated by a holding penalty on the Falcons.
Just two plays later Wegzyn tried to avoid the rush by throwing a ball into the end zone, and BG’s Ryland Ward picked it off.
“Paul Senn came up to me afterwards and said, ‘You are welcome,’” Ward said with a laugh. “He said I owe him.”
The interception was BG’s first since Jude Adjei-Barimah grabbed one against Kent State, a span of seven games and 261 passes between picks.
“The coaches have been harping on us about creating turnovers,” Ward said. “It has been bothering the secondary — the whole defense, really.
“I wouldn’t say it was a weight, but it was something we knew was there. We’ve had chances to create turnovers before, but for whatever reason the play wasn’t made.”
Even though Ward caught the ball in the end zone, he tried to return the ball but eventually was tackled on the BG 18.
“I know I’m going to hear about it, but I pride myself on my return skills,” Ward admitted. “But when I jumped up in the air to grab it, I thought, ‘Do not drop this ball on the way down.’
“I saw Cameron Truss make a block for me. … I would have liked to score, but …”
Falcons coach Dave Clawson smiled when he said he wasn’t surprised Ward brought the ball out of the end zone.
“I knew when Ryland caught that ball in the end zone he would bring it out — on principle,” Clawson said. “It was good to get one — but now we have to get two or three or four.”
ACTION FOR JACKSON: Junior wide receiver Heath Jackson saw extensive action and made the most of it, catching a team-high four passes and netting 33 yards, including a 9-yard TD toss from Matt Johnson in the third quarter.
Those totals were career highs for Jackson, surpassing the three-catch, 32-yard game he had at Virginia Tech last season.
“Heath has battled a lot of injuries, and this certainly is not the career he envisioned for himself when he came here,” Clawson said. “To his credit, he has gone out there and worked every day, and he done everything we’ve asked on special teams.
“When a guy goes down like Ryan Burbrink did, you want to know if the next guy is ready to go. And Heath was prepared to go.”
Johnson was quick to point out that his three TD passes were thrown to three players who aren’t considered starters.
“None of them are [the first-teamer] at their position,” Johnson said. “Tyler [Beck] is behind Alex Bayer [at tight end], [Burbrink] is ahead of Ronnie [Moore] and Heath.
“So those guys deserve a lot of credit for staying in the game mentally, and sticking with the game plan. When they were inserted into the game, they knew exactly what to do.”
ON A ROLL: With its third straight victory, BG improved to 5-1, its best start since the 2003 team begain 7-1.
THREE-DOT DATA: The Falcons were 2-for-3 in the Red Zone against UMass, making them 24-for-26 in the Red Zone in their five victories. The two times the offense did not score in the Red Zone came when BG took a knee at the end of the Akron win and against UMass on Saturday. … A pair of seniors, defensive tackle Ted Ouellet and safety Josh Pettus, were not in uniform for the contest. UMass was without one of its top defensive players as Kevin Byrne did not travel for the game for an “unspecified nonfootball issue.” … William Houston carried the ball two times for one yard, but scored his seventh touchdown of the season. Houston has 30 carries for 75 yards on the year.