Mississippi State wide receiver Jameon Lewis, left, tries to dodge Bowling Green defensive back Brian Sutton in the second half on Saturday. Lewis finished with 34 receiving yards for the Bulldogs.
STARKVILLE, Miss. — The Bowling Green State University football team’s game at Mississippi State will show up as a loss on the team’s ledger.
But the 21-20 setback to the Bulldogs may have been as impressive as any of BG’s five wins this season.
Even Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was impressed by the Falcons’ performance at Davis Wade Stadium.
“A win is a win — we’ll take it,” Mullen said after the game. “Give Bowling Green credit because that is a very good football team.
“Coming in, they were 5-1 on the season, and they really look like the top team in their conference.”
The game certainly didn’t start that way as the Bulldogs led 14-3 after one period. BG had just 59 yards of total offense in that quarter, but coach Dave Clawson said the Falcons didn’t make any big changes.
“We protected well, and we had a good run-pass mix. We just dropped some balls,” Clawson said of his team’s offense in the first quarter. “We didn’t call any different plays, we just executed better.
“We were more patient with the run game. But we dropped three balls in the first quarter that we normally catch.”
In the second quarter BG had drives of 96 and 48 yards to score 10 points, then added a 76-yard touchdown drive in the third period. Mississippi State defensive lineman P.J. Jones said his team had more trouble with the Falcon as the game wore on.
“Give credit to [Bowling Green]. That’s a good team,” Jones said. “They are good at what they do. They were starting to call out what we were going to do. …
“I’m not going to lie. This was a rough day.”
Meanwhile the defense, which allowed 178 yards and two touchdowns in the first period, buckled down and limited the Bulldogs to just one touchdown and 244 yards in the final three quarters.
“I’d love to tell you we made some brilliant adjustment, but we just tackled better,” Clawson said. “We did a much better job of tackling in the second half.
“We took some poor angles in the first half, and I think that’s the speed of the game. But we adjusted well.”
The Falcons turned the ball over only once, and that turnover comes with an asterisk: On the game’s final play, BG tried to throw the ball around the field to create a scoring opportunity, but eventually fumbled. Still, Clawson said the bottom line was his team did not make enough plays to win.
“When you play a team like this, you have to execute at a high level,” he said. “When you have a chance to make big plays, you have to make them.
“I thought we left a couple of big plays on the field because of dropped passes.”
So did the game against a Southeastern Conference rival feel like a win or a loss?
“It definitely feels like a loss, because we like to win,” sophomore defensive tackle Taylor Royster said. “But the fact that we came to SEC country, played a really good team, and lost by one point gives us confidence as we move forward in the season.”
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.