Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata is sacked by Bowling Green’ Paul Swan on Friday during the second quarter at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
BUFFALO NEWS/HARRY SCULL, JR. Enlarge
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Shaun Joplin came into the locker room at halftime with his mother’s words ringing in his ears.
“If you can touch it, you can catch it, my mom always says,” Joplin said. “I always have to deal with that when I see her after the game.
“I knew I had to put the first half in short-term memory, shove it aside, and show what I could do in the second half.”
Joplin, had just one catch in the first half of the Bowling Green State University football team’s game with Buffalo on Friday. The Southview High School product jump-started the Falcons offense with a big second half: five catches for 139 yards and a touchdown in BG’s 24-7 win.
“It felt great to come back in the second half and show what I’m made of,” Joplin said. “I wanted to show my teammates that I’m not someone that gets down after having two drops.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson connected with Joplin on a 13-yard catch to start the second half, a play Joplin said got him rolling.
“I had to get one catch under my belt,” the senior said. “After that I said, ‘Throw deep. Keep throwing deep.’ And I kept making plays on [Buffalo’s Courtney Lester].”
Three plays later Johnson did just that, throwing a “toss up” that Joplin came down with for a 31-yard reception. Even though Johnson threw an interception on the next play, BG’s quarterback said Joplin’s catch gave the offense a lift.
“It kind of showed that, if we blocked, protected, and caught, we could move the ball,” Johnson said. “Even though I threw the interception on the next play, we knew that the defense was holding them all game and, if we executed the way we could, we could move the ball.”
On their next drive BG took the lead for good when Johnson zipped a 23-yard scoring strike through tight coverage to Joplin. Joplin made the catch, and the officials said he tapped a toe in the end zone before skidding out of bounds.
“I couldn’t tell you [if I was in bounds] — I got the wind knocked out of me,” Joplin said. “I was just hoping that I scored, and everyone was laughing at me.”
The final two Johnson-to-Joplin connection came with the Falcons trying to wind down the clock in the fourth quarter.
They hooked up for a 10-yard completion on second-and-11, then used a 62-yard bomb to set up BG’s final score.
“My job was to throw the ball up there and let [Joplin] make a play,” Johnson said. “When ’Jop’ is on his game, he can come down with any [pass].”
Joplin’s six catches for 149 yards against the Bulls gives him team best of 47 for 870 yards this season. For his career, the senior has 109 receptions for 1,749 yards.
GOING GREENE: Travis Greene finished with 30 carries for 129 yards against the Bulls, pushing him one step closer to BG’s single-season rushing record.
Greene has carried the ball 236 times for 1,422 yards, moving into second place on the all-time list. He needs 23 yards to surpass the 1,444 yards Fred Durig posted in 1951.
Greene’s touchdown was his 10th rushing score this season, giving BG two players with at least 10 TD runs as William Houston leads the team with 12.
The last time BG had two runners with at least 10 touchdowns was 2003, when Josh Harris had 13 and P.J. Pope 10.
BIG D FOR BG: Bowling Green limited Buffalo to 15 net yards rushing in the game largely because of a season-high five sacks as well as nine tackles for loss.
Senior defensive tackle Ted Ouellet led the way with three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks, while juniors Bryan Thomas and Ryland Ward each had 1.5 tackles for loss.
Senior cornerback Aaron Foster and junior rover Brian Sutton led the Falcons with six tackles each.
SHORT YARDAGE: The Falcons earned a MAC East Division title for the first time since being co-champs in 2007, and will play in the MAC Championship for the first time since winning the West Division in 2003. BGSU is now the only team in the conference to win both an East and West Division title. … This marks the first nine-win season for the Falcons since 2004, when the team won the GMAC Bowl to finish 9-3. It is the first nine-win regular season since the Falcons posted a 10-2 regular season mark in 2003 and finished 11-3.