Falcons keep grip on costly turnover rate


BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football team has forced just seven turnovers in its first six games. Only two Mid-American Conference teams have produced fewer.

And yet the Falcons rank seventh in the 13-team league in turnover margin. What’s more, BG is one of four MAC schools that has nearly forced twice as many turnovers as it has committed.

The reason? Bowling Green has turned the ball over just four times in those six games, two fewer than any other league school. The Falcons rank fifth nationally among FBS schools in terms of fewest turnovers committed.

When asked to talk about his team’s ability to avoid turnovers, BG coach Dave Clawson said, “Do I have to?”

But Clawson overcame his fear of jinxing the situation, although he seemed to channel Yogi Berra.

“The No. 1 way to win games is to not lose games,” he said. “And I think the No. 1 way you lose a game is by losing the turnover battle.

“We take a lot of pride at the running back and receiver positions that we hold the ball securely in a fundamentally sound way. We tell our players that, at the end of the play, we expect them to hand the ball to an official.

“And our guys take it to heart.”

Clawson also gave credit to sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson, who has had just three of his 158 pass attempts picked off in his first season as a starter.

“I think Matt Johnson, for a young quarterback, has made very good decisions,” Clawson said. “I think there are times you try to throw the ball into tight quarters and make a play. And there are other times when it’s not an appropriate throw because of the coverage.

“But I hate to talk about it, because that can switch in a heartbeat.”

BG DEFENSE: The Falcons used an impressive defensive effort to beat UMass Saturday, allowing the Minutemen just 192 yards and nine first downs in the first three quarters of a 28-7 win.

“They were very sound and they played very, very hard,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said of BG’s defense. “I thought they were a little more mature, a little stronger, and a little quicker than we could handle at this point in time.

“We just weren’t able to pass protect well, so our quarterbacks couldn’t set their feet [on passes]. They caused a lot of disruptions, even with a four-man rush. They are where we want to be.”

CODE RED: The Falcons reached the “Red Zone” — the area between the UMass 20 and the goal line — three times on Saturday and scored a pair of touchdowns.

In its five wins this season BG has reached the Red Zone 26 times and scored on 24 of those trips, netting 19 touchdowns and five field goals. The two times the Falcons did not score in the Red Zone came when they took a knee at the end of victories over Akron and UMass.

Bowling Green did not allow the Minutemen to reach the Red Zone Saturday and have allowed opponents to score on just 8 of 17 of those trips. That 47.1 percent mark is the best in the MAC and ranks second nationally among FBS schools.

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