BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The mood was somber as the Bowling Green State University football team boarded the buses and headed home following its 59-31 shellacking at the hands of Western Kentucky on Friday.
When asked if the Falcons could bounce back following the 28-point season-opening loss, coach Dino Babers issued either a promise or a warning.
“We’re going to find out,” he said. “It’s going to be a rough week of practice.”
It’s hard to imagine that practice will be any rougher than the game, which saw the Hilltoppers pile up 702 yards of total offense — including 569 yards passing — and score eight touchdowns.
BG safety Brian Sutton had 16 tackles — including 14 solo stops — and that’s a bad sign, since the safety position is essentially the Falcons’ last line of defense.
“We didn’t tackle in space and, if you don’t tackle in space, it’s going to be a long game,” Babers said. “That’s the fear of every football coach in his first game, because you never get to tackle enough.”
BG allowed Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty to complete better than 80 percent of his passes (46-of-56, or 82.1 percent) and engineer eight touchdown drives that covered 69 yards or more.
“We didn’t play up to our abilities,” defensive tackle Zach Colvin said.
“We have to look at ourselves in the mirror, accept that, and get back to work. … This stinks, and it’s hard to swallow. But we have to come back to work and get ready to work.”
The Bowling Green offense struggled early, posting 83 yards in the first quarter. The Falcons were plagued by a case of the “drops,” most notably one by tight end Chris Pohlman when he was wide open downfield on the first play of the second drive.
“We had drops — we have to catch the football,” Babers said. “We had guys open for touchdowns, and we have to catch the football.”
BG did not score on its first five drives, although that deserves as asterisk: The Falcons failed on a fourth-and-short play from WKU’s 13 on its third drive, and Tyler Tate missed a field goal at the end of the fifth.
“They played the same defense we saw on film — there were no tricks or surprises,” Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson said. “It boiled down to execution.”
BG was balanced in its play-calling: Of the 71 plays the Falcons ran, 39 were pass calls and 32 were rushing attempts. Travis Greene had 91 yards rushing, while Fred Coppet rushed for 65 yards.
“We did feel good about getting [Greene] started,” Johnson said. “You saw later in the game we were able to, when we had worn them down.”
Johnson completed 25 of 36 passes for 314 yards and one touchdown, with Roger Lewis (eight catches) and Gehrig Dieter (seven) each getting 78 yards receiving.
NOTES: Babers becomes the first BG coach to lose his first game since Harry Ockerman in 1935. … Freshman Joe Davidson of Findlay averaged 43.0 yards on his four punts, with a long of 49. He dropped one inside WKU’s 20, and averaged 40.8 net yards per punt.